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Professor Henry Lanz 



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FirU EdiUon . . . Sepiember 1908 
Seetmd XdUion . . . October 1908 


The reason I have written this work is because so many 
people are interested in Tolstoy and so few seem to under- 
stand him. Russian LiveSy written in more detail than this, 
will no doubt appear (part of a very full and reliable one by 
my friend Mr. Paul Birukdf has in fact already appeared, 
and has been of great use to me) ; but they will hardly be so 
written as to be readily understood by English readers. 
They are not likely to contain the explanations of Russian 
customs and Russian people that we require, and they 
probably will contain things we do not want. 

It would seem therefore that an English Life of Tolstoy 
is needed, and having lived in Russia for twenty-three 
years, known Tolstoy well for several years, visited him 
frequently in Moscow, and stayed with him repeatedly at 
Ydsnaya Polydna, I am perhaps as well qualified as any 
one to write it, especially as I have long made a careful 
study of his views. My wife and I have translated several 
of his works, have known people closely connected with him, 
and some ten years ago we took part in an unsuccessful 
^ Tolstoy ** Colony; besides which I went to Canada at his 
wish to make arrangements for the Doukhobdr migration, 
of which I subsequently wrote the history. 

Moreover, I am impartial That is to say, I have taken 
pains to understand Tolstoy'^s views, and to see the good 
there is in them ; but being a Westerner, I see also certain 
things Tolstoy overlooks, and I know that these things 


knock big holes in some of his most cherished ^ principles.** 
Whether I am, or am not, capable of appraising his views 
is, however, a matter of more importance to the sequel of 
this work than to the present volume. In any case, I 
have tried to tell the facts of his life truly, not twisting 
them at all for the sake of any theories. 

Most of the facts relating to the earlier part of Tolstoy's 
life had already been told in English, before my book 
appeared, but many of the events of the years 1862-1878 
were told in this book for the first time. It is chiefly 
in Chapters IX and X, relating to that period, that 
alterations and additions have been made in the second 

There is one small matter of typography in this book 
which needs a word of explanation. I have sought to 
tell as much of the story as possible in Tolstoy's own 
words, and have also had occasion to quote other Russian 
writers. At times the Russian text quoted contains 
allusions or expressions which might perplex an English 
reader unless a word or two of explanation were added. 
To introduce paragraphs of explanation would interrupt 
the narrative, besides lengthening a book which already 
runs to 160,000 words. To have recourse to frequent 
footnotes is unsightly and unsatisfactory, especially in cases 
where two or three words of explanation are all that is 
required; so I have adopted the plan of using square 
brackets [ ] to enclose such brief explanations as are 
needed. The ordinary round parentheses ( ) I have kept 
for their common use, and for cases such as those in which 
italics are used in our translation of the Bible: namely, 
where for clearness' sake words are added that are not 
contained in the original. 

Beyond indicating the varying value of sums of money 


mentioned in roubles (silver or ^ assignation,'* as the case 
may be), I have not troubled the reader with the 
fluctuations of the rouble, which went from over S8 
pence before the Crimean war, to 19 pence after the 
Russo-Turkish war of 1878. If he wants a concise history 
of the Russian currency, he can find it in the preface to my 
edition of Sevastopol, 

Next year I hope to supplement this volume by another : 
The Life of Tolstoy : Last Three Decades^ in which besides 
giving the main events of Tolstoy's life during the years 
1878-1908, 1 want to give a summary and an appreciation 
of his main tenets. His life and his writings were so 
intimately connected during that period, that it would 
be impossible to relate that portion of his life without 
referring to his teaching. 


Great Baddow^ 
Chklhsford, 12M Oct 1908. 


I. Ancestry and Parcntao 



II. Youth and Early Manhood 


III. The Caucasus 



IV. The Crimean War 



V. Petersburg ; Love Affair ; Drouzh/nin 


VI. Travels Abroad 

» • 


VII. At YIsnaya again; 

TouRoifeNEF ; Arbiter , 




VIII. The School 

• • • 1 


IX. Marriage . 

I t • 


X. Nearing the Crisis 



xi. Confession 


XII. Works: 1852-1878 










Portrait of Tolstoy when commencing Anna Kari- 

nina, 1873. By Kram8k6y . Frontispiece 

Tolstoy in 1848^ after leaving the University . 48 

Map of Sevastopol . . 112 

Contributors to The Coniemporary : Touro^nef, 
SoLOGouB^ Tolstoy, NekrIsof^ Grio6rykf^ and 
PanAef . . . 14£ 

Tolstoy in 1856^ the year he left the Army 152 

Tolstoy in 1860^ the year his brother Nicholas 

DIED ...... 200 

Tolstoy in 1 862^ the year of his Marriage 290 

Tolstoy's Library, showing the wooden crosspiece 




Ancestors. Count Peter. Russian titles. Tolstoy's grand- 
father and father. His maternal grandfather and mother. 
First recollections. Aunty Tatiana. Antecedents. 

In the annals of the Russian nobility it is recorded that 
a man named Idris came from Germany in the year 1S5S 
with two sons and SOOO followers, and settling at 
Tchemigof in Little Russia was received with 
favour by the reigning Grand Duke, who granted him 
much land. A great-grandson of this Idris, Andrew by 
name, migrated to Moscow, where he was well received 
by the reigning Grand Duke Vasily, who conferred upon 
him the surname of Tolstoy. 

According to another account, the original German 
name of the family was Dick^ of which Tolstoy (thick) is 
a translation. Some of the present Tolstoys are, however, 
indignant at the very idea that any ancestor of theirs — 
however remote — can have been a German ; and indeed 
there is little to suggest that such was the case ; for the 
annals of the Russian nobility were to a large extent 
concocted in the reign of Peter the Great. Be that 
however as it may, it is certain that Peter Tolstoy, 
bom in 1645, was a Russian who distinguished 
himself in the service of the State. During the struggles 
which preceded the acquisition of power by Peter the Great, 
he made the mistake of allying himself with that autocrat's 
ambitious half-sister, Sophia. The defeat of her Guards, 


the Streltsi, caused him quickly to transfer his allegiance 
to Peter, whose favour he eventually managed to secure. 
When drinking with his chosen companions in later days, 
the Tsar would often pat Tolstoy's head, saying, * Little 
head, little head, had you been less wise, you would have 
come off your shoulders long ago."" 

This Peter Tolstoy held a commission in the Guards, 
and fought in the Azof campaign of 1696 ; but later on 
he went abroad to study shipbuilding when Peter 
the Great was seeking volunteers for that purpose. 
He was sent in 1701 as Ambassador to the Sublime 
Porte, and in the years 171 0-1 713, when political 
affairs were critical, he twice suffered severe imprisonment 
in the Seven Towers — the stronghold wherein the Sultan 
occasionally confined the ambassadors of States with whose 
conduct he felt dissatisfied. Returning to Russia in 1714, 
Tolstoy obtained the favour of Prince M^nshikof 
and became a Minister of State. He married ; but 
his wife does not appear to have been of sufficient import- 
ance for any one to have said anything about her. He 
accompanied Peter the Great to Holland and France, and 
rendered him an important though not creditable service. 
Peter the Great's son, the refractory Alexis, who disliked 

his father's reforms, had escaped from Russia and 

was living with his mistress Euphrosjrne at St. 

Elmo, near Naples. By threats and promises, and by the 

aid of this woman, Tolstoy induced the unfortunate 

Tsarevitch to return to Russia, and when he had got him 

there, took a leading part in his trial and secret execution. 

For this service Tolstoy received large estates and was 

promoted to the headship of the Secret Chancellery. On 

30 Aug. the day of the coronation of Peter^s second wife, 

1725 Catherine, Tolstoy was made a Count. His coat 

of arms shows seven towers, in memory of his imprisonment 

by the Sultan, and is appropriately supported by two 

wolf-hounds rampant, looking outwards. 


On the death of Peter the Great, Tolstoy actively 
supported M^nshikof in securing the throne for Catherine 
the First, and he was one of the seven members of the 
Upper Secret Council which practically ruled Russia. 
On the question of choosing a successor to Catherine, he 
ventured however to oppose Menshikof. The latter was 
too powerful for him ; and forfeiting his title of Count 
and deprived of all offices rewards and estates, Tolstoy, 
at the age of eighty-two, was banished for life to e May 
the Solovetz Monasterv, situated on an island in 1727 
the White Sea. Here, two years later, he died. Menshi- 
kof himself, one may remark in passing, finished his life 
that same year in Siberia, having been banished by _ 
an order signed by the boy he had placed on the 
throne. To be a Russian Minister of State in those days 
was almost as dangerous as it is in our times to be a 
revolutionary conspirator. 

The title of Count was revived in the family in 1770, 
for the benefit of Peter Tolstoy's grandson ; whose son. 
Count Elias Tolstoy (he figures in War and Peace as the 
elder Count Rostof), was the grandfather of Leo Tolstoy, 
whose life this book narrates. 

There is one matter which it may be as well to explain 
at the outset, as English readers are so often puzzled by 
it: I refer to the nature of Russian titles of nobility. 
The only really Russian title is that of Knyaz^ commonly 
translated * Prince.*^ It is borne by descendants of Rurik, 
by descendants of the Lithuanian Prince Ghedimin, and 
by descendants of various Tartar Elians whose dominions 
Russia has annexed. It has also been conferred by 
Imperial Decree on a dozen or more other Russian 
families. Though Knyaz is translated * Prince,' Velfky 
Kvyaz^ curiously enough, is not translated * Great Prince,' 
but ^ Grand Duke,' and this indicates how difficult it is to 
find suitable equivalents for these titles. Not till the 
time of Peter the Great were the Grerman titles, Count 


(Graf) and Baron, introduced into Russia. Both of 
these are now common among the Russo-Grerman landlords 
of the Baltic Provinces ; and less so among real Russians. 

It must be borne in mind that there is no law of 
primogeniture in Russia. Each son and daughter inherits 
Ihe family title, so that there are usually several, and 
sometimes many, people with equal rights to use the same 
title. Though springing from one stock, they may be 
only distantly connected. There are for instance other 
Counts Tolstoy, contemporaries of Leo Tolstoy and dis- 
tant cousins of his. One of these, the poet Count Alexis 
Tolstoy, was a well-known author and dramatist. Another, 
the reactionary Count Dmitry Tolstoy, was successively 
Head of the Holy Synod, Minister of Education, and 
Minister of the Interior. 

Tolstoy^s grandfather already mentioned. Count Elias 
Tolstoy, was an easy-going generous trustful and ex- 
travagant man, who married a wealthy Princess Gortchakdf, 
but ran through her money and his own, and at last 
procured the post of Governor of Kaz^n to secure a means 
of livelihood. This he was able to do, thanks to his 
family influence. It is recorded to his credit that, con- 
trary to the general custom of the time, he accepted no 
bribes (except from the Government contractor, who was 
considered the natural financial prop of a Provincial 
Governor), though his wife accepted presents without his 

Their eldest daughter married a Count Osten-Saken. 
She became guardian of Leo Tolstoy and of his brothers 
and sister, after they had lost their parents. Another 
daughter married V. I. iJshkof. Leo Tolstoy was under 
her charge when he lived in Kazdn and studied at its 

The first fact known to us about his father. Count 
Nicholas Tolstoy, is characteristic of the manners of his 
class and day. When he was only sixteen, his parents 


arranged a liaison between him and a peasant girl, such 
connections being considered necessary for the health of 
young men. A son was bom, and Tolstoy records his 
^ strange feeling of consternation when (in after years) this 
brother of mine, fallen into destitution and bearing a 
greater resemblcmce to my father than any of us, used to 
beg help of us, and was thankful for the ten or fifteen 
roubles we used to give him/ 

Nicholas Tolstoy was not yet seventeen when Napoleon in- 
vaded Russia ; but in spite of his parents'* efforts to dissuade 
him, he insisted on entering the army, and thanks 
to his mother's family influence, quickly obtained 
an appointment as Adjutant to Prince Andrew Gortchakdf, 
a Greneral in command. He went through the campaigns 
of 1813 and 1814; and in the latter year he 
and his orderly, while on their way to rejoin 
the Russian army in Germany, after taking despatches to 
Petersburg, were captured by the French. The orderly 
managed to hide his master^s gold coins in his boots, and 
for months never risked taking them off*, though his feet 
grew sore and he suffered extreme discomfort. Thanks to 
this devotion, Nicholas Tolstoy, after reaching Paris, was 
able to live in comfort. 

Having attained the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel, he 
left the army when the war was over, and, disillusioned 
with military sen'ice, returned to Kazan, where his father 
(completely ruined by that time) was still Governor. 

In 18S0 Count Elias died, leaving his estate so en- 
cumbered that his son declined to accept the inheritance. 
The young man had to face the task of providing 
for his old mother, who was accustomed to great 
luxury, as well as for his sister and a distant cousin, 
Tati^a Alex^ndrovna ]^rgolsky, who had been adopted 
into the family ; and so a marriage was arranged for him 
with the wealthy but plain Princess Marie Volkdnsky, 
who was no longer very young. 


His father's life, Tolstoy tells us, was then 

passed in attending to the estate, a business in which he was 
not very expert, but in which he exercised a virtue great for 
those days : he was not cruel, but perhaps even lacked firmness. 
During his lifetime I never heard of corporal punishment. If it 
ever was administered to the serfs, the cases were so rare and my 
father took so little part in them, that we children never heard 
them mentioned. It was after his death that I learnt, for the 
first time, that such punishment ever took place at home. 

Like most men who served in the army in the early years of 
Alexander's reign, he [Count Nicholas Tolstoy] was not what 
is now called a Liberal, but out of self-respect he considered 
it impossible to serve during the latter [reactionary] part of 
Alexander's reign, or under Nicholas. During all my child- 
hood and youth, our family had no intimate relations with any 
Government official. I, of course, understood nothing about 
this in childhood, but I understood that my father never 
humbled himself before any one, nor altered his brisk, merry, 
and often chaffing tone. This feeling of self-respect, which 
I witnessed in liim, increased my love and admiration for him. 

Leo Tolstoy's mother's family, the Volkonskys, were de- 
scended from Riirik (the first ruler mentioned in Russian 
history) as well as from St. Michael, Prince of Montenegro ; 
and through them, even more than on his father's side, 
Tolstoy is connected with many of the leading families of 
the Russian aristocracy. Prince Nicholas Volkdnsky, his 
mother's father, came into conflict with the most powerful 
of the favourites of Catherine the Great, for Tolstoy tells 
us that : 

Having attained the high position of Commander-in-Chief, 
he lost it suddenly by refusing to marry Pot6mkin's niece and 
mistress, Varvtoi Engelhardt. To Pot^mkin's suggestion that 
he should do so, he replied : ^ What makes him think I will 
marry his strumpet ? ' 

He married instead, a Princess Catherine Troubetskdy, 
and after retiring from the service, settled down on his 


estate at Ydsnaya Polydna. His wife soon died, leaving 
him an only daughter, Tolstoy's mother. Tolstoy writes 
of this grandfather : 

He was regarded as a very exacting master^ but I never heard 
any instance of his being cruel or inflicting the severe punish- 
ments usual in those days. I believe such cases did occur 
on his estate^ but the enthusiastic respect for his importance 
and cleverness was so great among the servants and peasants 
whom I have often questioned about him, that though I have 
heard my father condemned, I have heard only praise of my 
grandfather's intelligence, business capacity, and interest in the 
welfare both of the peasants and of his enormous household. 

Later, a strange chance brought Prince Volkdnsky again 
into touch with Varvdra Engelhardt, whom he had refused 
to marry. She married a Prince Sergius Golitsin, who 
consequently received promotions and decorations and 
rewards ; and Tolstoy tells us : 

With this Sergius Golitsin and his family, my grandfather 
formed so close a friendship that my mother from her childhood 
was betrothed to one of his ten sons. . . . This alliance, how- 
ever, was not destined to be consummated, for the young man 
died prematurely of fever. 

In a portrait of Prince N. Volkdnsky which has been pre- 
served in the family there is much that corresponds to 
Leo Tolstoy's own appearance. * Both,' €is his brother-in- 
law remarks, ^ have the same high, open forehead, the same 
prominent organs of the creative faculty and of musical 
talent, and the same deep-set grey eyes that seem to be 
gazing into the far distance, and from under their thick 
overhanging eyebrows literally pierce the soul of the man 
on whom they are turned.' 

Prince N. Volkdnsky died in 18S0, and two years later 
his daughter married Count Nicholas Tolstoy. Of g^o 
her Tolstoy tells us : 

I do not remember my mother. I was a year-and-a-half old 


when she died. By some strange chance no portrait of her 
has been preserved, so that as a real physical being I cannot 
picture her to myself. I am in a way glad of this^ for in my 
conception of her there is only her spiritual figure^ and all that 
I know about her is beautiful ; and I think this has come about 
not merely because all who spoke to me of my mother tried to 
say only what was good, but because there actually was much 
good in her. 

She was well educated, spoke five languages, played the 
piano well, and had a wonderful gift for improvising tales 
in the most delightful manner. It is said that at balls her 
young lady friends would leave the dance and gather in a 
dark room to hear her tell a story ; which shyness induced 
her to do where she could not be seen. Tolstoy remarks 
that ^her most valuable quality was that though hot- 
tempered, she wfiis yet self-restrained. "She would get 
quite red in the face and even cry,"^ her maid told me, 
" but would never say a rude word."" ^ She had one quality 
Tolstoy values very highly — that of never condemning any 
one. It was a quality shared by her eldest son, Nicholas ; 
and Leo Tolstoy says : 

In the Lives of the Saiiils by D. Rost6vsky^ there is a short 
story which has always touched me exceedingly, of a certain 
monk, who to the knowledge of all his brethren had many 
faults, but whom an old monk, in a dream, saw occupying a 
place of honour among the saints. The old man asked in 
astonishment, ' How could this monk, so unrestrained in many 
ways, deserve so great a reward ? ' The answer was : 'He 
never condemned any one.' 

Tolstoy adds : * If such rewards did exist, I think my 
brother and my mother would have received them.' 

Another feature Tolstoy records of his mother is *her 
truthfulness and the simple tone of her correspondence.'* 
He tells us that in his imagination his mother 

appeared to me a creature so elevated, pure and spiritual. 


that often in the middle period of my life^ during my struggles 
with overwhelming temptations^ I prayed to her soul begging 
her to aid me ; and such prayer always helped me much. 

Five children were bom to Nicholas and Marie Tolstoy. 
First came four sons, of whom Leo was the youngest. 
His name in Russian is Lydf Nikoldyevitch (Leo, son-of- 
Nicholas) Tolstoy. Leo Tolstoy is the way he signs him- 
self when using the Latin alphabet ; and when pronouncing 
his name it should be remembered that the accent falls on 
the second syllable, and that that syllable rhymes with 
* boy."* The fancy spellings Tolstoi and Tolstoi are due to 
the fact that some of the early translators and reviewers, 
not being able to read Russian, relied on French versions, 
and did not know how Tolstoy spells or pronounces his own 
name. He was bom on 28th August 1828^ at 
Y^naya Polydna, with a caul — which both in 
Russia and in England is considered a sign of good- 

A year and a half later a daughter, Marie, was bom ; 
and in giving birth to her the mother died, on 7th March 

Pilgrims, monks, nuns, and various half-crazy devotees 
were frequent visitors at the house, and even took up their 
abode there. One of these was a nun, MArya Gerdsi- 
movna, who in her youth had made pilgrimages to various 
holy places dressed as a man. After the birth of four 
boys Tolstoy's mother longed for a daughter, and pro- 
mised Mdrya Gerdsimovna that she should be godmother if 
by prayer she enabled her to obtain her desire. The next 
child really was a daughter. The promise was kept, and 
thereafter Mdrya G^rdsimovna, though she lived partly in 
the Toula convent, was free of the Tolstoys'* house and 
spent much of her time there. 

^ The dates mentioned in the text are usually old style (twelve days 
behind our calendar), unless the contrary is expressly stated. 


Tolstoy gives us his earliest reminiscences in an auto- 
biographical fragment published in 1878 : 

These are my first recollections. I cannot arrange them in 
order^ for I do not know which come first or last. Of some of 
them I do not even know whether they happened in a dream 
or when I was awake. I lie bound ^ and wish to stretch out 
my arms^ but cannot. I scream and cry^ and my screams are 
disagreeable to myself^ but I cannot stop. Some one — I do not 
remember who — bends over me. This all happens in semi- 
darkness. I only know there were two people there. My 
cries affect them : they are agitated by my screams, but do not 
untie me as I want them to^ and I scream still louder. To 
them it seems necessary that I should be bound, but I know it 
is unnecessary and I wish to prove this to them, and I again 
burst into cries which are unpleasant to myself but are yet un- 
restrainable. I feel the injustice and cruelty — not of people, 
for they pity me, but — of fate, and I pity myself. I do not 
know and shall never know, what it was all about : whether I 
was swaddled while still a baby at the breast, and struggled to 
free my hands ; whether they swaddled me when I was more 
than a year old, to prevent my scratching some sore, or whether 
I have gathered into this one recollection (as one does in a 
dream) many different impressions. The one sure thing is, 
that this was the first and strongest impression of my life. 
And what remains on my memory is not my cries nor my 
sufferings but the complexity and contradictoriness of the im- 
pressions. I desire freedom, it would harm no one, but I who 
need strength am weak, while they are strong. 

The next impression is a pleasant one. I am sitting in a tub, 
and am surrounded by a new and not unpleasant smell of some- 
thing with which they are rubbing my tiny body. Probably it 
was bran, put into the water of my bath ; the novelty of the 
sensation caused by the bran aroused me, and for the first time 
I became aware of, and liked, my own little body with the 
visible ribs on my breast, and the smooth, dark, wooden tub, 
the bared arms of my nurse, the warm, steaming, swirling 

^ Russian babies are usually swaddled tightly with bands, making them 
look like fresh mummies. 


water^ the noise it made, and especially the smooth feel of the 
wet rim of the tub as I passed my hands along it. 

My next recollections belong to the time when I was five or 
six, and there are very few of them, and not one that relates to 
life outside the walls of the house. Nature, up to the age of 
five, did not exist for me. All that I remember, happened in 
bed or in our rooms. Neither grass, nor leaves, nor sky, nor 
sun existed for me. It cannot be that no one ever gave me 
flowers and leaves to play with, that I never saw any grass, that 
they never shaded me from the sun ; but up to the time when 
I was five or six years old, I have no recollection of what we 
call Nature. Probably, to see it, one has to be separate from 
it, and I was Nature. 

The recollection that comes next after the tub is that of 
Erem^yevna. 'Erem^yevna' was the name with which they 
used to frighten us children. Probably they had long frightened 
us with it, but my recollection of it is this : I am in bed and 
feel well and happy as usual, and I should not remember it, but 
that suddenly the nurse, or some one of those who made up my 
life, says something in a voice new to me, and then goes away ; 
and in addition to being happy I am also frightened. And 
besides me there is some one else like me. (Probably my sister 
Mary, whose crib stood in the same room.) And I now re- 
member a curtain near my bed ; and both my sister and I are 
happy and frightened at the strange thing happening to us, 
and I hide in my pillow : hide, and glance at the door from 
behind which I expect something new and merry. We laugh, 
and hide, and wait. And then some one appears in a dress and 
cap quite unknown to me, but I recognise that it is the same 
person who is always with us (whether my nurse or aunt I do 
not remember), and this some one says something about bad 
children and about Erem^yevna in a gruff voice which I know. 
And I squeal with fear and pleasure, and really am frightened, 
and yet am glad to be frightened, and wish her who is fright- 
ening me not to know that I have recognised her. We become 
quiet, but presently begin whispering to one another again, on 
purpose that Erem^yevna may come back. 

I have another recollection similar to this of Erem^yevna 
(but as it is clearer it probably belongs to a later date) which 


has always remained inexplicable to me. In this recollection 
the chief part is played by our German tutor^ Theodore Ivdnitch, 
but I am sure I was not yet in his charge ; so the event must 
have taken place before I was five. It is ray first recollection 
of Theodore Ivdnitch, and it took place at so early an age that 
I can remember no one else : neither my brothers nor my 
father nor any one. If I have some notion of some one 
individual person^ it is only of my sister, and this only because 
she, like me, was afraid of Erem^yevna. With this recollection 
is joined my first conception of the fact that our house had 
a top story. How I climbed there — whether I went by myself 
or whether any one carried me — I have quite forgotten, but 
I remember that many of us are there, and we all form a circle 
holding each other s hands ; among us are some women I did 
not know (for some reason I remember that they were washer- 
women), and we all begin to go round and to jump ; and 
Theodore Ivinitch jumps, lifting his legs too high and too 
loudly and noisily, and I at one and the same instant feel 
that this is bad and depraved, and notice him and (I believe) 
begin to cry — and all is over. 

That is all I remember up to the age of five. Neither my 
nurses, aunts, brothers, sister, nor my father, nor the rooms, 
nor my toys, do I remember. My more distinct recollections 
begin from the time I was moved downstairs to Theodore 
Ivanitch and the elder boys. 

When I was moved downstairs to Theodore Ivanitch and the 
boys, I experienced for the first time and therefore more 
strongly than ever since, the feeling which is called the sense 
of duty, the consciousness of the cross every man is called upon 
to bear. It was hard to leave what I was accustomed to from 
the beginning of things, and I was sad, poetically sad, not 
so much at parting from people : sister, nurse, and aunt, as at 
parting with my crib, the curtain and the pillow ; and I feared 
the new life into which I was entering. I tried to see the jolly 
side of this new life awaiting me ; I tried to believe the caressing 
words with which Theodore Ivanitch lured me to him. I tried 
not to see the contempt with which the boys received me, the 
youngest boy. I tried to think it was a shame for a big boy to live 
with girls, and that there was nothing good in the life upstairs 


with nurse ; but my heart was terribly sad^ I knew I was irrepar- 
ably losing my innocence and happiness ; and only a feeling of 
personal dignity and the consciousness of doing my duty upheld 
me. (Often in after-life I have experienced similar moments 
at the parting of cross-roads^ when entering on a fresh course.) 
I experienced quiet grief at the irreparableness of my loss; 
I was unable to believe that it would really happen. Though 
I had been told that I should be moved to the boys' rooms^ 
I remember that the dressing-gown with a cord sewn to its 
back^ which they put on me, seemed to cut me off for ever 
from upstairs, and I then for the first time observed — not 
all those with whom I had lived upstairs, but — the chief person 
with whom I lived, and whom I did not remember before. 
This was my Aunty TatiAna AlexAndrovna ^rgolsky. I re- 
member her: short, stout, black-haired, kindly, tender, and 
compassionate. It was she who put the dressing-gown on me, 
and embracing me and kissing me, tied it round my waist; 
and I saw that she felt as I did, that it was sad, terribly sad, but 
had to be ; and for the first time I felt that life is not a game 
but a serious matter. 

* Aunty ^ Tatidna Alex^ndrovna Ergolsky, mentioned in 
the above reminiscences, was a very distant relative who 
being left an orphan, had been brought up by Tolstoy'^s 
paternal grandparents. She was very attractive and affec- 
tionate. She loved and was loved by Count Nicholas, 
Leo^s father, but stood aside that he might marry the rich 
Princess Marie VoIkcSnsky and repair the family fortunes. 
Six years after his wife^s death Count Nicholas asked 
Tatidna to marry him and be a mother to his children. 
Not wishing (Tolstoy tells us) to spoil her pure, poetic 
relations with the family, she refused the first but fulfilled 
the second of these requests. 

The joyousness of Tolstoy's boyhood was largely due to 
the care and affection of this excellent woman, and in the 
most firmly rooted of his principles — such as his detesta- 
tion of corporal punishment and his approval of complete 
chastity — it is easy to trace her unconscious influence. 


Here for instance is one episode : 

We children were returning home from a walk with our 
tutor, when near the bam we met the fat steward, Andrew, 
followed by the coachman's assistant, * Squinting KouzmA ' as 
he was called, whose face was sad. He was a married man and 
no longer young. One of us asked Andrew where he was 
going, and he quietly replied that he was going to the bam, 
where KouzmA had to be punished. I cannot describe the 
dreadful feeling which these words and the sight of the good- 
natured crestfallen Kouzmd produced on me. In the evening 
I told this to my Aunt Tatidna, who hated corporal punishment 
and, wherever she had influence, never allowed it for us any 
more than for the serfs. She was greatly revolted at what 
I told her, and rebuking me said, ' Why did you not stop him } ' 
Her words grieved me still more. ... I never thought that we 
could interfere in such things, and yet it appeared that we 
could. But it was too late, and the dreadful deed had been 

To sum up what we know of Tolstoy's antecedents : 
he was descended on his father's side and still more on his 
mother's, from aristocratic families who were more or less in 
passive opposition to the Government, and who shared the 
humanit-nan sympathies current in the early years of the 
reign of Alexander I. A cousin of Tolstoy's mother was 
one of the Decembrists, and on the accession of Nicholas I 
in 1825 took part in their abortive attempt to establish 
Constitutional Government. He was exiled to Eastern 
Siberia for thirty years, doing hard labour in irons part of 
the time. His wife (another Princess Marie Volkdnsky) 
voluntarily accompanied him, as Nekrdsof has told in a well- 
known Russian poem. 

We find strong family love uniting the homes of Tolstoy's 
parents and grandparents; and even after their death, 
Tolstoy's nature ripened in a congenial atmosphere of 
family affection ; and many of his most pronounced sym- 


pathies and antipathies are not peculiar to himself, but 
were shared equally by other members of the family. 


P. Birukof : Lyof Nikolayevitch Tolstoy. Bwgrafiya : Moscow^ 
1906 (which is a storehouse of facts invaluable to every 
biographer of Tolstoy. The Russian edition is much more 
readable and accurate than the English). 
Referred to hereafter as Biruk^. 
C. A. Behrs^ RecoUectiani of Count Leo Tolstoy : London^ 1893. 
Referred to hereafter as Behrs. 
Though the English edition of this book gives the author's 
name as C. A. Behrs^ I have elsewhere referred to him as 
S. A. BehrSj in accord with the more usual system of trans- 
Leo Tolstoy^ First RecoUeetions, a fragment: Tolstoy's collected 

works^ Moscow, 1892. 
Supplement to Novy Mir, Graf Lyof Tolstoy : St Petersburg^ 190a 
Referred to hereafter as Novy^Mir, 



Ydsnaya Polyana. Aunt Tatiana. The German Tutor, 
llie brothers : Nicholas, Sergius and Demetrius. Doun- 
etchka. The house-serfs. A family scene. Pilgrims and 
saints. Death of father and grandmother. Flying. Per- 
sonal appearance. Corporal punishment. Originality. Rid- 
ing lessons. The Countess Osten-Saken. Aunt P. 1. 
Cshkof. Books. Abstract speculations. Kazan University. 
Imprisonment. Diary. Demetrius. Books: Dickens and 
Rousseau. Y&snaya again. Petersburg. Consistency. 
Rudolph the Musician. Women. Gambling. Gipsy girls. 
Money difficulties. The liberty of Russian nobles. 

YXsNAYA PolyXna (Bright Glade), where Tolstoy was bom, 
had been an ancestral estate of the Volk(>nskys and belonged 
to his mother, the Princess Marie. It is situated ten 
miles south of Toiila, in a pleasantly undulating country. 
The estate, which is enclosed by an old brick wall, is well 
wooded and has many avenues of lime-trees, a river and 
four lakes. In Tolstoy's grandfather's time, sentinels kept 
guard at the small, round, brick towers, which now stand 
neglected at the entrance of the main birch avenue leading 
to the house. Something of the great confidence in him- 
self and readiness to despise others, which despite all his 
efforts to be humble, characterise Tolstoy, may be due to 
the fact that he was bom and grew up on an estate where 
for generations his ancestors had been the only people of 



^ Aunty ' Tati^na Alexandrovna ^rgolsky had been 
brought up by his grandmother on an equality with her 
own children. She (Tatidna) was resolute, self-sacrificing, 
and, says Tolstoy, 

must have been very attractive with her enormous plait of 
crisp, black, curling hair, her jet-black eyes, and vivacious, 
energetic expression. When I remember her she was more 
than forty, and I never thought about her as pretty or not 
pretty. I simply loved her eyes, her smile, and her dusky 
broad little hand, with its energetic little cross vein. 

We had two aunts and a grandmother; they all had more 
right to us than Tatidna Alexindrovna, whom we called Aunt 
only by habit (for our kinship was so distant that I could never 
remember what it was), but she took the first place in our up- 
bringing by right of love to us (like Buddha in the story of the 
wounded swan), and we felt her right. 

I had fits of passionately tender love for her. 

I remember once, when I was about five, how I squeezed in 
behind her on the sofa in the drawing-room and she caress- 
ingly touched me with her hand. I caught it and began to kiss 
it, and to cry with tender love of her. . . . 

Aunty Tatiana had the greatest influence on my life. From 
early childhood she taught me the spiritual delight of love. 
She taught me this joy not by words ; but by her whole being 
she filled me with love. I saw, I felt, how she enjoyed 
loving, and I understood the joy of love. This was the first 

Secondly, she taught me the delights of an unhurried, quiet 

Another, though a much less important, influence was 
that of the tutor, Theodore Kessel (who figures as Karl 
Ivdnovitch Mauer in Tolstoy's early sketch, Childhood) 
Tolstoy owes his excellent knowledge of German and French 
to the fact that his father, following a custom common among 
well-to-do Russians, engaged foreign teachers and let his 
children learn languages not so much from books as by 


word of mouth, while they were still quite young. KesseFs 
* honest, straightforward, and loving nature ' helped to de- 
velop the boy^s good qualities. 

Tolstoy got on well, too, with his brothers, who were 
five-and-a-half, two, and one year older than himself, as 
well as with his little sister Marie, his junior by a year- 

He not only loved, but deeply respected, his eldest 
brother Nicholas (pet name, Nikdlenka), whose influence 
lasted until, and even after, his death in 1860. Of him 
Tolstoy says : 

He was a wonderful boy^ and later a wonderful man. Tour- 
gdnef used to say of him very truly, that he only lacked certain 
faults to be a great writer. He lacked the chief fault needed 
for authorship — vanity, and was not at all interested in what 
people thought of him. The qualities of a writer which he 
possessed were, first of all, a fine artistic sense, an extremely 
developed sense of proportion, a good-natured gay sense of 
humour, an extraordinary inexhaustible imagination, and a 
truthful and highly moral view of life ; and all this without the 
slightest conceit. His imagination was such that for hours 
together he could tell fairy-tales or ghost-stories, or amusing 
tales in the style of Mrs. Radcliffe, without a pause and with 
such vivid realisation of what he was narrating that one forgot 
it was all invention. . . . When he was not narrating or read- 
ing (he read a great deal) he used to draw. He almost 
invariably drew devils with horns and twisted moustaches, 
intertwined in the most varied attitudes and engaged in the 
most diverse occupations. These drawings were also full of 

It was he who, when I was five and my brothers, Dmitry 
six and Sergey seven, announced to us that he possessed a 
secret by means of which, when disclosed, all men would 
become happy : there would be no more disease, no trouble, no 
one would be angry with anybody, all would love one another, 
and all would become ^ Ant-Brothers.' . . . We even organised 
a game of Ant-Brothers, which consisted in sitting under 


chairs^ sheltering ourselves with boxes^ screening ourselves with 
handkerchiefs, and cuddling against one another while thus 
crouching in the dark. . . . The Ant-Brotherhood was revealed 
to us, but not the chief secret : the way for all men to cease 
suffering any misfortune, to leave off quarrelling and being 
angry, and become continuously happy ; this secret he said he 
had written on a green stick, buried by the road at the edge of 
a certain ravine, at which spot (since my body must be buried 
somewhere) I have asked to be buried in memory of Nikolenka. 
Besides this little stick, there was also a certain Fanfar6nof 
Hill, up which he said he could lead us, if only we would fulfil 
all the appointed conditions. These were : first, to stand in a 
comer and not think of a white bear. I remember how I used 
to get into a corner and try (but could not possibly manage) 
not to think of a white bear. The second condition was to 
walk without wavering along a crack between the boards of 
the floor ; and the third was, for a whole year not to see a 
hare, alive or dead or cooked ; and it was necessary to swear 
not to reveal these secrets to any one. He who fulfilled these, 
and other more difficult conditions which Nikolenka would 
communicate later, would have one wish, whatever it might be, 

Nik61enka, as I now conjecture, had probably read or heard 
of the Freemasons — of their aspirations toward the happiness 
of mankind, and of the mysterious initiatory rites on entering 
their order ; he had probably also heard about the Moravian 
Brothers [in Russian ant is jnouravey]. 

Writing when he was over seventy, Tolstoy adds : 

The ideal of ant-brothers lovingly clinging to one another, 
though not under two arm-chairs curtained by handkerchiefs, but 
of all mankind under the wide dome of heaven, has remained the 
same for me. As I then believed that there existed a little 
green stick whereon was written the message which could 
destroy all evil in men and give them universal welfare, so I 
now believe that such truth exists and will be revealed to men, 
and will give them all it promises. 

It was, however, Tolstoy^s second brother, Sergius (or 


Sergey : pet name, Seryozha), whom Tolstoy in his young 
days most enthusiastically admired and wished to imitate. 
Sergius was handsome, proud, straightforward, and singularly 
sincere. Of him Leo Tolstoy says : 

I loved and wished to be like him. I admired his handsome 
appearance, his singing (he was always singing), his drawings 
his gaiety and especially (strange as it may seem to say so) 
the spontaneity of his egotism. I myself was always aware of 
myself and self-conscious ; I always guessed, rightly or wrongly, 
what other people thought or felt about me, and this spoilt my 
joy in life. This probably is why in others I specially liked 
the opposite feature — sjxintaneity of egotism. And for this I 
specially loved Seryozha. The word Icwed is not correct. I 
loved Nikolenka; but for Seryozha I was tilled with admira- 
tion as for something quite ajmrt from and incomprehensible 
to me. 

Of the third brother, Demetrius (or Dmitry : pet name, 
Mitenka), only a year older than himself, Tolstoy tells us : 

I hardly remember him as a boy. I only know by hearsay 
that as a child he was very capricious. He was nearest to me 
in age and I played with him oftenest, but did not love him as 
much as I loved Seryozha, nor as I loved and respected Nik61- 
enka. He and I lived together amicably. I do not recollect 
that we quarrelled. Probably we did, and we may even have 
fought. ... As a child I remember nothing special about 
Mitenka except his childish merriment. 

Tolstoy says he was ' afraid of beggars, and of one of the 
Volkonskys, who used to pinch me ; but, I think, of no 
one else." 

A girl, Dounetchka Temeshof, was adopted as a member 
of the family. She was a natural daughter of a wealthy 
bachelor friend of Tolstoy's father. 

I remember how, when I had already learnt French, I was 
made to teach her that alphabet. At first it went all right (we 


were both about five years old); but later she probably became 
tired^ and ceased to name correctly the letters I pointed out. 
I insisted. She began to cry. I did the same^ and when our 
elders came, we could say nothing owing to our hopeless tears. 

In his later recollections of her he says : 

She was not clever, but was a good, simple girl ; and, above 
all, so pure that we boys never had any but brotherly relations 
with her. 

By which he means that there was no flirtation. 

The relations between the family and its servants, who 
were serfs (and of whom there were about thirty), were, as 
in many a Russian family, often really afiectionate. One 
instance of a serTs devotion has already been quoted ; and 
such cases were not rare. In Childhood mention is made 
of the old housekeeper, Praskdvya Isdyevna, who was com- 
pletely devoted to the welfare of the family, and Tolstoy 
says : ^ All that I there wrote about her was actual 

Here is another example illustrating both kindly tolera- 
tion of minor offences committed by a serf, and the family 
affection which sweetened life : 

My pleasantest recollections of my father are of his sitting 
with grandmother on the sofa, helping her to play Patience. 
My father was polite and tender with every one, but to my 
grandmother he was always particularly tenderly submissive. 
They used to sit — Grandma playing Patience, and from time to 
time taking pinches from a gold snuff-box. My aunts sit in 
armchairs, and one of them reads aloud. We children come in 
to say good-night, and sometimes sit here. We always take 
leave of Grandma and our aunts by kissing their hands. I 
remember once, in the middle of a game of Patience and of the 
reading, my father interrupts my aunt, points to a looking-glass 
and whispers something. We all look in the same direction. 
It was the footman Tikhon, who (knowing that my father was 
in the drawing-room) was going into the study to take some 
tobacco from a big leather folding tobacco-pouch. My father 


sees him in the looking-glass, and notices his figure carefully 
stepping on tiptoe. My aunts laugh. Grandmama for a long 
time does not understand, but when she does, she too smiles 
cheerfully. I am enchanted by my father s kindness, and on 
taking leave of him kiss his white muscular hand with special 

An important feature of the life in which Tolstoy grew 
up was furnished by the half-cra;zy saints who swarmed in 
Russia in those days, and are still occasionally to be 
met with. Readers of Childhood will remember Grisha, an 
admirable specimen of that class, about whom Tolstoy 
makes the following characteristic note in his memoirs : 

Grisha is an invented character. We had many of these 
half-crazy saints at our house, and I was taught to regard them 
with profound respect, for which I am deeply grateful to those 
who brought me up. If there were some among them who 
were insincere, or who experienced periods of weakness and 
insincerity, yet the aim of their life, though practically absurd, 
was so lofly that I am glad I learned in childhood uncon- 
sciously to understand the height of their achievement. They 
accomplished what Marcus Aurelius speaks of when he says : 
'There is nothing higher than to endure contempt for one's 
good life.' So harmful and so unavoidable is the desire for 
human glory which always contaminates good deeds, that one 
cannot but sympathise with the effort not merely to avoid 
praise, but even to evoke contempt. Such a character was 
Marya Gerasimovna, my sister s godmother, and the semi-idiot 
Ebdokimoushka, and some others in our house. 

How deeply these early impressions were engraved on 
Tolstoy^s mind is obvious from his earliest as well as his latest 
writings. Take, for instance, the lines from Childhood 
referring to Grisha's prayer overheard by the children. 

Much water has flowed away since then, many recollections 
of the past have lost for me their meaning and become blurred 
fancies ; even the pilgrim Grisha himself has long since finished 


his last pilgrimage; but the impression he produced on me 
and the feeling he evoked^ will never die out of my memory. 

In Tolstoy^s later life we shall again and again find this 
medieval note recurring (with whatever of truth or falsity 
it contains), and the assertion that it is not the usefulness 
or uselessness of a man's life that matters, so much as his 
self-abn^ation and the humility of his soul. 

To complete the picture of Tolstoy "s early boyhood at 
Ydsnaya Polydna, we must think of him as interested in 
his father'^s dogs and horses and hunting, and also in the 
games and masquerades with which the family and visitors, 
as well as the servants, amused themselves, especially at 
New Year. 

In spite of his sensitive introspective nature, Tolstoy's 
childhood was a singularly happy one; and to it he has always 
looked back with pleasure. He speaks of * that splendid, 
innocent, joyful, poetic period of childhood, up to four- 
teen,^ and he tells us that the impressions of early child- 
hood, preserved in one's memory, grow in some unfathomable 
depth of the soul, like seeds thrown on good ground, till 
after many years they thrust their bright green shoots into 
Grod's world. 

When Tolstoy was eight years old the family moved to 
Moscow for his elder brothers' education. The following 
summer they lost their father, who, having gone to 
Toula on business, fell down in the street on his way 
to visit his friend Temeshdf, and died of apoplexy. What 
money he had with him was stolen, but some unnegotiable 
bonds were brought back to the Tolstoys in Moscow by an 
unknown beggar. The funeral took place at YAsnaya 
Polydna ; and Leo, who did not attend it, long fancied that 
his father was not really dead. Looking at the faces of 
strangers in the streets of Moscow, he felt almost certain he 
might at any moment meet him alive again. 

This event brought the problems of life and death 
vividly to the boy's mind, and nine months later the im- 


pression was intensified by the death of his grandmother, 
who never recovered from the shock of her son^s death. 
Hers was the first death Tolstoy witnessed, and he never 
forgot the horror he felt when, as she lay dying of dropsy, 
he was admitted to kiss her swollen white hand and saw 
her, dressed in white, lying motionless on a high white bed. 
But he says : 

I remember that new jackets of black material, braided 
with white^ were made for all of us. It was dreadful to see 
the undertakers' men hanging about near the house, and then 
bringing in the coffin, with its lid covered with glazed brocade, 
and my grandmother's stem face, with its Roman nose, and 
her white cap and the white kerchief on her neck, lying high 
in the coffin on the table ; and it was sad to see the tears of 
our aunts and of Pdshenka ; but yet the new braided jackets 
and the soothing attitude adopted towards us by those around, 
gratified us. ... I remember how pleasant it was to me to over- 
hear during the funeral the conversation of some gossiping 
female guests, who said, ' Complete orphans ; their father only 
lately dead, and now the grandmother gone too/ 

Some time after this, an event occurred that is recorded 
on the first page of Tolstoy's Confession : 

I remember how, when I was about eleven, a boy Vladimir 
Miliitin (long since dead), a Grammar School pupil, visited us 
one Sunday and announced as the latest novelty a discovery 
made at his School. The discovery was that there is no God, 
and all that we are taught about Him is a mere invention. I 
remember how interested my elder brothers were in this news. 
They called me to their council and we all, I remember, 
became animated, and accepted the news as something very 
interesting and fully possible. 

Various stories have been preserved relating to Tolstoy's 
boyhood, and some of them are sufficiently characteristic 
to be worth repeating. 

One incident which made a strong impression on the 


lady keenly sensitive as he always was to any shade of 
injustice, was the following : 

Soon after the death of their father and grandmother, 
the orphan Tolstoys, then living in rather straitened 
circumstances (owing to the property being left in trust), 
were invited to a Christmas Tree at the house 'of an 
acquaintance, and the young Princes Grortchakdf, nephews 
of the then Minister of War, were also among the guests. 
All the children received presents ; but whereas the Gort- 
chakdfs had expensive ones, the Tolstoys to their annoy- 
ance, received cheap common ones. 

Another occurrence that clung to his recollection through 
life, was the friendly welcome they received one day when 
they made their way uninvited into a private garden in 
Moscow ; and the sad disappointment they experienced 
when, returning a few days later unaccompanied by a 
pretty and attractive girl who had been with them on the 
former occasion, they were coldly informed that it was 
private ground, not open to the public. 

Other stories, told by Tolstoy himself or by the family, 
illustrate his impulsive, imaginative, strenuous and rather 
erratic nature at this period. 

When he was about seven or eight years old he had an 
ardent desire to fly, and persuaded himself that it was pos- 
sible to do so. It was only necessary to sit down tight 
on your heels, clasping your arms firmly round your 
knees, and the tighter you held them the higher you would 
fly. Whether this belief had any connection with an un- 
toward event which occurred one day soon after the family 
moved to Moscow, I do not know. Instead of coming to 
dinner, Leo stayed behind upstairs and threw himself out 
of a window several yards from the ground. He was picked 
up unconscious. The ill results of his fall were fortunately 
confined to a slight concussion of the brain ; and after 
sleeping for eighteen hours on end he woke up again quite 


It would be a mistake to take his story, Childhoody as 
strictly autobiographical ; but it contains many passages 
which one knows from other sources to be true of his own 
life, and one such is the passage in which (speaking in the 
character of Nikolenka) he says : 

I knew very well that I was plain^ and therefore every refer- 
ence to my appearance was painfully ofiensive to me. . . . 
Moments of despair frequently came over me : I imagined that 
there could be no happiness on earth for a man with so broad 
a nose, such thick lips^ and such small grey eyes as mine. 
I asked God to perform a miracle and change me into a hand- 
some boy, and all I then had and all I could ever possess in the 
future, I would have given for a handsome face. 

In fact, his personal appearance caused the sensitive lad 
much concern, but his efforts to improve it were unsuccess- 
ful. On one occasion he clipped his eyebrows, and the 
unsatisfactory results of that operation occasioned him 
great grief. 

He records in his Reminiscences the following incident, 
which certainly intensified his lifelong antipatiby to cor- 
poral punishment : 

I do not remember for what^ but for something quite un- 
deserving of punishment^ St. Thomas [the resident French 
tutor who succeeded Kessel] first locked me into a room, and 
secondly threatened to flog me. I thereupon experienced 
a dreadful feeling of anger indignation and disgust, not only 
towards St. Thomas himself, but towards the violence with 
which I was threatened. 

When quite a small boy he conceived an attachment for 
the nine-year-old daughter of his father^s friend, Isl^nyef, 
and being jealous of her for daring to talk to others, he 
angrily pushed her off a balcony, with the result that she 
limped for a long time afterwards. A quarter of a century 
later, when he married this lady'*s daughter, his mother-in- 
law used laughingly to remind him of the incident, and 


say, ^ Evidently you pushed me off the balcony in my child- 
hood that you might marry my daughter afterwards ! ^ 

His sister relates that once when they were driving in a 
troika (i.e, three horses abreast) to Y^naya, Leo got down 
during a break in the journey and went forward on foot. 
When the carriage started again and began to overtake him 
he took to running, and when the horses went faster he 
also increased his speed, racing as hard as he could. He was 
not overtaken till he had gone about two miles and was 
completely tired out. He was lifted back into the carriage 
gasping for breath, perspiring and quite exhausted. Any 
one not endowed with the remarkable physical vigour that, 
in spite of frequent attacks of ill-health, has characterised 
Tolstoy through life, would probably have done themselves 
serious injury had they taxed their vital resources as reck- 
lessly as he often did. 

All accounts agree in representing him as an original and 
odd little fellow, unwilling to do things like other people. 
He would for instance enter a drawing-room and, carefully 
placing his feet together and bending his head, would 
make his bow backwards, saluting each of the company 
in turn. 

Two incidents are recorded relating to the love of 
riding which has remained a characteristic of his through 

When his brothers were sent to a riding-school, Leo (in 
spite of his father^s assurances and those of the riding-master 
that he was too small to begin and would tumble off) 
also obtained permission to learn to ride. At his first 
lesson he duly tumbled off, but begged to be replaced in 
the saddle ; and he did not fall off again, but became an ex- 
pert horseman. In one of the short stories he wrote many 
years later for the use of school-children, he tells how he 
once wished to ride the old horse Raven after his brothers 
had each had a turn on it ; and how Raven being too tired 
to move from the stables, he beat it till he broke his switch 


on its sides. He then demanded a stouter switch from the 
serf in charge, but the man replied : 

^ Ah^ master, you have no pity ! Why do you beat him ? 
He is twenty years old, and is tired out ; he can hardly breathe. 
Why, for a horse, he is as old as Timofeyitch [a very old peasant 
living at the place]. You might as well get on Timofeyitch's 
back, and drive him beyond his strength like that, vrith a 
switch. Would you feel no pity for him ? * 

I thought of Timofeyitch, and hearkened to the man. I got 
off the horse's back ; and when I noticed how its steaming 
sides were working, and how heavily it breathed through its 
nostrils, swishing its thin tail, I understood how hard it was 
for it. Till then I had thought that it was as happy as I was 
myself. And I felt so sorry for Raven that I began to kiss his 
sweaty neck and to beg his pardon for having beaten him. 

Since then I have grown up, but I always have pity on 
horses, and always remember Raven and Timofeyitch when I 
see horses ill-treated. 

He does not appear to have been very good at his lessons, 
and himself somewhere mentions the dictum of a student 
who used to coach his brothers and himself, and said of their 
aptitude for learning : 

^ Serg6y both wishes and can, Dmitry wishes but can't ' (this 
was not true), 'aud Leo neither wishes nor can.* (This, I 
think, was perfectly true.) 

On the other hand, St. Thomas, the French tutor already 
referred to (he figures in Childhood as St. Jerome), must have 
noticed the lad'*s capacity, for he used to say, * Ce petit a une 
tite : c*est un petit Molitre ' (This little one has a head : 
he is a little Moliere). 

After the father^s death the family property passed under 

the control of the Court of Wards, and expenses had to be 

^ cut down. It w€is therefore decided that, though 

the two elder brothers had to remain in Moscow for 

the sake of their education, the three younger children should 


return to Ydsnaya Polydna, where living was cheaper, in 
charge of their much loved Aunty Tatidna. Their legal 
guardian, the Countess Alexandra (* Aline ') Ilynishna Osten- 
Saken, remained in Moscow with the elder boys. 

This lady had made what seemed a brilliant marriage with 
the wealthy Count Osten-Saken, whose family was among the 
first in the Baltic Provinces ; but her married life was a 
terrible one. Her husband went out of his mind and tried 
to kill her. While he was confined in an asylum, the 
Countess gave birth to a still-bom child. To save her 
from this fresh shock, a girl bom of a servant, the wife of 
a Court cook, was substituted for the still-bom baby. This 
girl, Pdshenka, lived with the Tolstoy family, and was already 
grown up when Tolstoy was quite a child. Subsequently 
the Countess Alexandra lived first with her parents, and 
then with her brother, Tolstoy's father. Though she was 
a devotee of the Orthodox Russo-Greek Church of which 
Tolstoy eventually became so fierce an opponent, much in 
her character and conduct accords with the precepts laid 
down in his later writings ; and it is evident that certain 
aspects of his understanding of the * Christian ** character, 
which strike most Englishmen as peculiar, far from being 
invented out of his own head, are derived from a deeply- 
rooted Russian and family tradition. He tells us : 

My aunt was a truly religious woman. Her favourite occu- 
pation was reading the Lives of the Saints^ conversing with 
pilgrims^ half-crazy devotees^ monks and nuns, of whom some 
always lived in our house^ while others only visited my aunt. 
. . . She was not merely outwardly religious^ keeping the fasts^ 
praying much^ and associating with people of saintly life^ but 
she herself lived a truly Christian life, trying not only to avoid 
all luxury and acceptance of service, but herself serving others 
as much as possible. She never had any money, for she gave 
away all she had to those who asked. A servant related to me 
how, during their life in Moscow, my aunt used carefully on 
tip-toe to pass her sleeping maid^ when going to Matins, and used 


herself to perform all the duties which it was in those days 
customary for a maid to perform. In food and dress she was 
as simple and unexacting as can possibly be imagined. Un- 
pleasant as it is to me to mention it, I remember from child- 
hood a specific acid smell connected with my aunt, probably 
due to negligence in her toilet: and this was the graceful 
poetic Aline with beautiful blue eyes, who used to love reading 
and copying French verses, who played on the harp, and 
always had great success at the grandest balls ! I remember 
how affectionate and kind she always was, and this equally to 
the most important men and women and to the nuns and 

Tolstoy goes on to tell how pleasantly she bore the jests 
and teasing that her devotion to the priests brought upon 

I remember her dear good-natured laugh, and her face 
shining with pleasure. The religious feeling which filled her 
soul was evidently so important to her, so much higher than 
anything else, that she could not be angry or annoyed at any- 
thing, and could not attribute to worldly matters the import- 
ance others attach to them. 

In the summer of 1839 the whole family assembled at 
Yasnaya Polydna. The next year, 1840, was a famine 
year. The crops were so poor that corn had to 
be bought to feed the serfs, and to raise funds for 
this purpose one of the Tolstoys' estates had to be sold. 
The supply of oats for the horses was stopped, and Tolstoy 
remembers how he and his brothers, pitying their ponies, 
secretly gathered oats for them in the peasants^ fields, quite 
unconscious of the crime they were committing. 

In the autumn of that year the whole family moved to 
Moscow, returning to Yasnaya for the following summer. 
The next autumn their guardian, the kind good 
Countess Alexandra Osten-Saken, died in the Con- 
vent or *• Hermitage ^ founded by 6ptin (a robber chief of 


the fourteenth century) in the Government of Kalouga, to 
which she had retired. 

After her death her sister, Pelageya Ilynishna l^'shkof, 
became their guardian. She was the wife of a Kazan land- 
owner. Aunty Tatiana and she were not on friendly 
terms ; there was no open quarrel between them, but V. I. 
ti'shkof (Pelageya'^s husband) had been a suitor for Tatidna^s 
hand in his youth, and had been refused. Pelageya could 
not forgive her husband's old love for Tatidna. 

The change of guardianship led to the removal of the 
family to Kazan, and to the children being separated from 
Aunty Tatidna, much to her grief. 

The books which up to the age of fourteen, when he 
went to Kazdn, had most influenced Tolstoy were, he tells 
us, the Story of Joseph from the Bible, the Forty Th%ex)es 
and Prince Kamaralzaman from the Arabian Nights^ various 
Russian folk - legends, Poushkin'^s Tales and his poem 
Napoleouj and TTie Black Hen by Pogorelsky. The influence 
the story of Joseph had on him, he says, was ^ immense.** 

In his aptitude for abstract speculation, as in other 
respects, the boy was truly father to the man ; and in a 
passage, certainly autobiographical, in Boyhood, he says : 

It will hardly be believed what were the favourite and most 
common subjects of my reflections in my boyhood — so incom- 
patible were they with my age and situation. But in my 
opinion incompatibility between a man's position and his moral 
activity is the surest sign of truth. ... 

At one time the thought occurred to me that happiness does 
not depend on external causes, but on our relation to them ; 
and that a man accustomed to bear suffering cannot be unhappy. 
To accustom myself therefore to endurance^ I would hold 
Tatishefs dictionaries in my outstretched hand for five minutes 
at a time, though it caused me terrible pain ; or I would go to 
the lumber room and flog myself on my bare back with a cord 
so severely that tears started to my eyes. 

At another time suddenly remembering that death awaits 
me every hour and every minute^ I decided (wondering why 


people had not understood this before) that man can only be 
happy by enjoying the present and not thinking of the future ; 
and for three days^ under the influence of this thought^ I aban- 
doned my lessons, and did nothing but lie on my bed and enjoy 
myself, reading a novel and eating honey-gingerbreads, on 
which I spent my last coins. . . . 

But no philosophic current swayed me so much as scepticism, 
which at one time brought me to the verge of insanity. I 
imagined that except myself no one and nothing existed in the 
world, that objects are not objects but apparitions, appearing 
only when I pay attention to them and disappearing as soon as 
I cease to think of them. In a word, I coincided with Schelling 
in the conviction that what exists is not objects, but only my 
relation to them. There were moments in which under the 
influence of this fixed idea, I reached such a stage of absurdity 
that I glanced quickly round hoping to catch Nothingness by 
surprise, there where I was not. 

The philosophical discoveries I made greatly flattered my 
vanity : I often imagined myself a great man, discovering new 
truths for the benefit of humanity, and looked on other mortals 
with a proud consciousness of my own dignity ; yet, strange to 
say, when I came in contact witli these mortals I grew timid 
before each of them. The higher I stood in my own opinion 
the less was I able to show any consciousness of my own dignity 
before others, or even to avoid being ashamed of every word or 
movement of my own — even the simplest. 

At the time of the move to Kazan, a serf lad of about 
his own age was presented to each of the young Tolstoys 
to attend on him. One of these lads, Alexis, later on 
accompanied Leo Tolstoy through the Crimean war and 
lived with him till old age. 

For five and a half years, from the autumn of 1841 

to the spring of 1847, the brothers lived at Kazan, re- 

turning each summer to Ydsnaya for the vacation. 

They all entered Kazan University. The aunt 

who was their guardian, and with whom they lived the 

greater part of the time, was a kind but not particularly 


clever woman. Her house was the centre of much 
hospitality and gaiety. 

Leo Tolstoy prepared to enter the faculty of Oriental 
Languages, in which a knowledge of Arabic and Turco- 
Tartar was required. He worked hard, and matri- 
culated in May 1844 before he was sixteen, passing 
in French (for which he received the mark 5 + ; 5 being 
in an ordinary way the highest mark, and the + indicating 
exceptional distinction), German, Arabic, and Turco-Tartar 
very well, and in English, Logic, Mathematics and Russian 
Literature, well ; but he did indifferently in Latin, and 
failed completely in History and Geography, getting the 
lowest mark, a 1, for each of them. Of History he says, 

* I knew nothing,' and of Geography * still less ** ; adding, 

* I was asked to name the French seaports, but I could 
not name a single one.** At the end of the summer vaca- 
tion he was admitted for re-examination in the subjects in 
which he had failed, and passed successfully. 

The winter season when Tolstoy, as a student at the 
University and a young man of good position, entered 
Kazdn society, was a particularly gay one. He is44r 
attended many balls, given by the Governor of the 1^45 
Province, by the Marechal de la NoblessCy and by private 
people, as well as many masquerades, concerts, tableaux- 
vivants, and private theatricals. He is still remembered 
by old inhabitants as having been ^present at all the balls, 
soirees, and aristocratic parties, a welcome guest every- 
where, and always dancing, but, far from being a ladies^ 
man, he was distinguished by a strange awkwardness and 
shyness." At Carnival time in 1845 he and his brother 
Sergius took parts in two plays given for some charitable 
object. His performance w€is a great success. 

As to the nature of Kazdn society and of his surround- 
ings there, accounts are contradictory. On the one hand, 
we have his own statement that (imitating his brother 
Sergius in this as in other matters) he became ^ depraved.** 


Birukdf, too, speaks of ^the detestable surroundiDgs of 
Tolstoy^s life in Eazdn," and another writer, Zagdskin, a 
fellow-student of Tolstoy^s at the University, says that the 
surroundings in which the latter moved were demoralising 
and must have been repellent to him. On the other hand,- 
on seeing Zagciskin'^s remarks, Tolstoy (in whom there is 
often observable a strong spirit of contradiction) replied : 

I did not feel any repulsion, but was very glad to enjoy 
myself in K&z&n society, which was then very good. I am on 
the contrary thankful to fate that I passed my first youth in 
an environment where a young man could be young without 
touching problems beyond his grasp, and that I lived a life 
which, though idle and luxurious, was yet not evil. 

The explanation of these contradictions, no doubt, is that 
the family circle in which Tolstoy lived was an affectionate 
one, and that he himself not only enjoyed his life, but 
formed friendships and made efforts at which in later 
years he looked back with satisfaction. Yet there was 
assuredly much in his life and in the life around him 
which (except when others were severe on it) he recalled 
with grave disapproval, which he has expressed in his 

To come as near as we may to the truth, we must allow 
for the personal equation which, in Tolstoy ''s case, is violent 
and fluctuating. 

With constant amusements going on around him, it is 
not surprising that at the end of his first University year 
he failed in his examinations. The failure does not how- 
ever appear to have been entirely his fault, for he tells us : 

Ivan6f, Professor of Russian History, prevented me from 
passing to the second course (though I had not missed a single 
lecture and knew Russian History quite well) because he had 
quarrelled with ray family. The same Professor also gave me 
the lowest mark — a 'one' — for German, though I knew the 
language incomparably better than any student in our division. 


Instead of remaining for a second year in the first course 
of Oriental Languages, Tolstoy preferred to leave that 
faculty, and in August 1845 he entered the faculty 
of Law. During the first months of this new 
•course he hardly studied at all, throwing himself more 
than ever into the gay life of Eazdn society. Before mid- 
winter however he began for the first time, as he tells us, 
^ to study seriously, and I even found a certain pleasure in 
so doing."* Comparative Jurisprudence and Criminal Law 
interested him, and his attention was especially arrested 
by a discussion on Capital Punishment. Meyer, Professor 
of Civil Law, set him a task which quite absorbed him ; it 
was the comparison of Montesquieu'^s Esprit des Lais with 
Catherine the Second's Great Nakaz. The conclusion to 
which he came was, that in Catherine's Nakcus one finds 
Montesquieu'^s Liberal ideas mixed with the expression of 
Catherine'^s own despotism and vanity, and that the Nakaz 
brought more fame to Catherine than good to Russia. 

He passed his examinations successfully in May 1846, 
and was duly admitted to the second year's course of Juris- 
prudence. Some time previously Tolstoy and 
another student had disputed which of them had 
the better memory, and to test this, each of them learnt 
by heart the reply to one examination question in History. 
Tolstoy's task was to learn the life of Mazeppa, and as 
luck would have it that was just the question he happened 
to draw at his examination, so that he naturally obtained 
a 5, the highest mark. 

From the autumn of 1846 the three brothers, Sergius 
Demetrius and Leo, ceased to live at their aunt's, and 
settled in a flat of their own, consisting of five rooms. 

A fellow-student, Nazdryef, has told how he and Tolstoy 
were incarcerated by the University authorities for some 
minor breach of discipline; and from his account one 
gathers that Tolstoy was in those days particularly careful 
of his personal appearance, his clothes indicating his aristo- 


cratic pretensions. But though externally the Tolstoy of 
1846 diflFered greatly from the Tolstoy of forty years 
later, his conversation ran on much the same lines as in 
later life, and was uttered with the intensity of conviction 
and the flashes of dry humour which have since made 
even the most didactic of his writings so readable. 

The conversation in their place of confinement having 
led to some mention of Lermontofs poem. The Demons 
Tolstoy took occasion to speak ironically of verse gener- 
ally, and then, noticing a volume his companion had of 
Karanizfn'*s History ofRussia^ he 

attacked History as the dullest and almost the most useless 
of subjects. A collection of fables and useless details^ sprinkled 
with a mass of unnecessary figures and proper names. . . . 
Who wants to know that the second marriage of John the 
Terrible, with Temnik's daughter, took place on 21st August 
1562; and his fourth marriage, with Anna Alexeyevna Kol- 
t6rsky, in 1572 ? Yet they expect me to grind all this, and if 
I don't, the examiner gives me a ' one.* 

Later on, says Nazaryef, * the, to me, irresistible force 
of Tolstoy "s doubts fell upon the University, and on 
University teaching in general. The phrase, " The Temple 
of Science,*" was constantly on his lips. Remaining per- 
fectly serious himself, he portrayed our professors in such 
a comical light that, in spite of all my efforts to appear 
indifferent, I laughed like one possessed. ..." Yet,"^ said 
Tolstoy, " we both had a right to expect that we should 
leave this temple useful men, equipped with knowledge. 
But what shall we really carry away from the University 't 
. . . What shall we be good for, and to whom shall we be 
necessary ? "^ ' 

From the educational articles Tolstoy wrote sixteen 
years later, we know that he disapproved of examinations, 
of the restricted groove of studies marked out for the 
students in each faculty, and of the system which made 


it necessary for the professors to deliver original lectures 
of their own, and obliged the students to listen to those 
lectures and to study them, however incompetent the 
professors might be. 

The fact that his brother Sergius had finished his 
studies and was leaving, strengthened Tolstoy'^s dissatisfac- 
tion with the University ; and finally, without waiting for 
the May examinations at which he might have qualified 
for the third year's course, we find him, soon after Easter 
1847, applying to have his name removed from 
the University roll ^on account of ill-health and 
family affairs/ He really had been in hospital in March, 
but the plea of ill-health was a mere excuse. 

His failure to take a degree was a source of great 
annoyance and disappointment to him, and it must not be 
supposed that he left Kazdn with any idea of taking life 
easily or neglecting his further education. 

From the time he was a boy he had kept a diary of 
every little sin he had committed, and especially of any 
offence against the Seventh Commandment, in order that 
he might repent, and if possible refrain for the future, and 
his diary shows how full he was at this time of strenuous 
resolutions. During the last year of his life at Eazdn he 
made close friends with a student named Dydkof (the 
Nehludof of Boyhood\ and under his influence had 

an ecstatic worship of the ideal of virtue, and the conviction 
that it is man's destiny continually to perfect himself. To put 
all mankind right and to destroy all human vices and misfortunes^ 
appeared a matter that could well be accomplished. It seemed 
quite easy and simple to put oneself rights to acquire all the 
virtues and to be happy. 

Here are some rules he set himself at that time : 

1. To fulfil what I set myself^ despite all obstacles. 

2. To fulfil well what I do undertake. 


S, Never to refer to a book for what I have forgotten^ but 
always to try to recall it to mind myself. 

4. Always to make my mind work with its utmost power. 

5. Always to read and think aloud. 

6. Not to be ashamed of telling people who interrupt me, 
that they are hindering me : letting them first feel it, but (if 
they do not understand) telling them, with an apology. 

Deciding to settle at Ydsnaya for two years, he drew up 
a list of studies he intended to pursue for his own mental 
development, and to qualify for a University degree ; and 
this list was, as the reader will see, appalling in its 

1. To study the whole course of law necessary to get my 

2. To study practical medicine^ and to some extent its theory 

3. To study : French, Russian, German, English, Italian, and 

4. To study agriculture, theoretically and practically. 

5. To study History, Geography, and Statistics. 

6. To study Mathematics (the High School course). 

7. To write my [University] thesis. 

8. To reach the highest perfection I can in music and 

9. To write down rules (for my conduct). 

10. To acquire some knowledge of the natural sciences, and 

11. To write essays on all the subjects I study. 

Such rules and resolutions abound in Tolstoy^s Diary. 
After failing to act up to them, he again and again 
gathers his energies and maps out for himself plans of life 
and courses of study sufficient to tax the energies of an 
intellectual giant. 

As to his religious opinions at this time, he tells us : 

I was baptized and brought up in the Orthodox Christian 
faith. I was taught it in childhood and all through my boy- 


hood and youth. But before I left the University^ in my 
second year, at the age of eighteen, I no longer believed any- 
thing I had been taught. {Confession,) 

His Diary nevertheless shows that he prayed frequently 
and earnestly ; the fact no doubt being, that though 
intellectually he discarded the Orthodox Russo- Greek 
Church, in times of trouble or distress he instinctively 
appealed to God for help. His opinions were wavering 
and immature, as he himself tells us in another passage : 

The religious beliefs taught me in childhood disappeared . . . 
and as from the time I was fifteen I began to read philosophic 
works, my rejection of those beliefs very soon became a con- 
scious one. From the age of sixteen I ceased going to Church 
and fasting of my own accord. I did not believe what had 
been taught me from childhood, but I believed in something. 
What it was I believed in, I could not at all have said. I 
believed in a God, or rather I did not deny God ; but I could 
not have said what sort of God. Neither did I deny Christ 
and his teaching, but what his teaching consisted in I could 
also not have said. 

Looking back on that time now, I see clearly that my faith — 
my only real faith, that which apart from my animal instincts 
gave impulse to my life — was a belief in perfecting oneself. 
But in what this perfecting consisted and what its object was, 
I could not have said. I tried to perfect myself mentally — I 
studied everything I could : anything life threw in my way ; 
I tried to perfect my will, I drew up rules which I tried to 
follow ; I perfected myself physically, cultivating ray strength 
and agility by all sorts of exercises and accustoming myself to 
endurance and patience by all kinds of privations. And all 
this I considered to be perfecting myself. The beginning of 
it all was, of course, moral perfecting; but that was soon 
replaced by perfecting in general : by the desire to be better, 
not in one's own eyes or those of God, but in the eyes of 
other people. And very soon this effort again changed into a 
desire to be stronger than others : to be more famous, more 
important and richer than others. (Confession,) 


When speaking of Tolstoy's relations with women, it 
should be borne in mind that incontinence for young men 
was then considered so natural that few of them in his 
position would have felt any serious qualms of conscience 
about such visits to houses of ill-fame as he lets us know 
that he began to pay at this time. His brother Dmitry 
however led a chaste life, and alternating with gross 
lapses of conduct, we find Leo noting down for his own 
guidance such resolutions as the following : 

To regard the society of women as a necessary unpleasant- 
ness of social life, and to keep away from them as much as 
possible. From whom indeed do we get sensuality, effeminacy, 
frivolity in everything, and many other vices, if not from 
women ? Whose fault is it, if not women's, that we lose our 
innate qualities of boldness, resolution, reasonableness, justice, 
etc. ? Women are more receptive than men, therefore in 
virtuous ages women were better than we ; but in the present 
depraved and vicious age they are worse than we are. 

During his years at the University, Tolstoy saw much of 
his brother Dmitry, of whom he says : 

I remember also at the University that when my elder 
brother Dmitry, suddenly in the passionate way natural to 
him devoted himself to religion and began to attend all the 
Church services, to fast, and to lead a pure and moral life, we 
all, and even our elders, unceasingly held him up to ridicule 
and called him, for some unknown reason, * Noah.' I remember 
that Moiisin-Poiishkin (then Curator of Kaz^n University), 
when inviting us to a dance at his house, ironically remon- 
strated with my brother, who had declined the invitation, and 
used the argument that even David danced before the Ark. 
I sympathised with these jokes my elders made, and deduced 
from them the conclusion that though it is necessary to learn 
the catechism and go to church, one must not take such things 
too seriously. (Confession.) 

Again we read of this brother : 

His peculiarities became manifest, and are impressed on my 


mind from the time of our life at Kazin. Formerly in Moscow 
I remember that he did not fall in love, as Sery6zha and I did, 
and was not fond of dancing or of military pageants, but studied 
well and strenuously. ... At Kazdn I, who had always imitated 
Sery6zha, began to grow depraved. . . . Not only at Kazin, 
but even earlier, I used to take pains about my appearance. I 
tried to be elegant, comme ilfaut. There was no trace of any- 
thing of this kind in Mftenka. I think he never suffered from 
the usual vices of youth; he was always serious thoughtful 
pure and resolute, though hot-tempered, and whatever he did, 
he did to the best of his ability. . . . He wrote verses with 
great facility. I remember how admirably he translated 
Schiller's Der Jungling am Bache, but he did not devote him- 
self to this occupation. ... He grew up associating little with 
others, always — except in his moments of anger — quiet and 
serious. He was tall, rather thin, and not very strong, with 
long, large hands and round shoulders. I do not know how or 
by what he was attracted at so early an age, towards a religious 
life, but it began in the very first year of his University career. 
His religious aspirations naturally directed him to Church life, 
and he devoted himself to this with his usual thoroughness. 

In Mitenka there must have existed that valuable character- 
istic which I believe my mother to have had, and which I 
knew in Nik61enka, but of which I was altogether devoid — 
complete indifference to other people's opinion about oneself. 
Until quite lately (in old age) I have never been able to divest 
myself of concern about people's opinion ; but Mitenka was 
quite free from this. I never remember on his face that 
restrained smile which involuntarily appears when one is being 
praised. I always remember his serious quiet sad, sometimes 
severe, almond-shaped hazel eyes. Only in our Kazdn days 
did we begin to pay particular attention to him, and then 
merely because, while Sery6zha and I attached great importance 
to what was comme il faut — to externalities — he was careless 
and untidy, and we condemned him for this. 

We others, especially Sery6zha, kept up acquaintance with 
our aristocratic comrades and other young men. Mitenka on 
the contrary selected out of all the students a piteous-looking, 
poor, shabbily dressed youth, Poluboyirinof [which may be 


translated Half-noble] — whom a humorous fellow-student of 
ours called Polubezob6dof [Half-dinnerless] — and consorted 
only with him^ and with him prepared for the examinations. 
. . . We brothers^ and even our aunt, looked down on Mitenka 
with a certain contempt for his low tastes and associates; 
and the same attitude was adopted by our frivolous comrades. 

After their University days were over, Tolstoy saw 
little of his brother Demetrius; so it will be convenient 
here to sacrifice chronological sequence and say what more 
there is to tell of the latter's life and death. The 
material is again supplied by Tolstoy'^s Reminiscences. 

When we divided up the family property, according to 
custom the estate where we lived, YiLsnaya Polydna, was 
given to me. Sery6zha, as a lover of horses and according 
to his wish, received Pirog6vo, where there was a stud. To 
Mitenka and Nik61enka were given the two other estates : to 
Nik61enka, Nik61skoy ; to Mitenka, the Kursk estate, Sher- 
batch6vka. I have kept a note of Mitenka's, showing how he 
regarded the possession of serfs. The idea that it is wrong, 
and that serfs ought to be liberated, was quite unknown in 
our circle in the 'forties. The hereditarj' possession of serfs 
seemed a necessary condition of life, and all that could be 
done to prevent its being an evil, was to attend not only to 
their material but also to their moral welfare. In this sense 
Mitenka wrote very seriously naively and sincerely. Think- 
ing he could not do otherwise, he, a lad of twenty, when he 
left the University took it upon himself to direct the morality 
of hundreds of peasant families, and to do this (as G6gol 
recommended in his Letters to a Landonnier) by threats of 
punishments and by punishments. . . . But besides this duty 
to his serfs, there was another duty which at that time it 
seemed impossible not to fulfil : namely. Military or Civil 
service. And Mitenka decided to enter the Civil Service. 

Tolstoy proceeds to tell how his brother, desiring to be 
useful to his country, chose legislation as his speciality, 
and going to Petersburg astonished the Head of the 


Department as well as certain aristocratic acquaintances by 
asking where he could find a place in which he could be 
useful. The friend to whom he went for advice, regarded 
the service of the State merely as a means of satisfying 
ambition, and ^such a question had probably never 
occurred to him before/ Eventually we find Demetrius 
returning home discouraged, and taking up some local 
work. All this, to some extent, helps us to understand 
Leo Tolstoy'^s sceptical attitude towards the institution of 
Grovemment, and his strong belief that men in Government 
service are solely actuated by selfish motives. 
Tolstoy continues : 

After we had both left the University, I lost sight of him. 
I know he lived the same severe, abstemious life, knowing 
neither wine tobacco nor, above all, women, till he was 
twenty-six, which was very rare in those days. I know also 
that he associated with monks and pilgrims. ... I think I 
was already in the Caucasus when an extraordinary change 
took place. He suddenly took to drinking smoking wasting 
money and going with women. How it happened I do not 
know ; I did not see him at the time. I only know that his 
seducer was a thoroughly immoral man of very attractive 
appearance, the youngest son of Isl6nyef [an uncle of the 
lady Leo Tolstoy subsequently married]. 

In this life Mftenka remained the same serious religious 
man he was in everything. He ransomed from the brothel a 
prostitute named Mdsha, who was the first woman he knew, 
and took her into his house. But this life did not last long. I 
believe it was less the vicious and unhealthy life he led for 
some months in Moscow, than his mental struggle and his 
qualms of conscience, that suddenly destroyed his powerful 
organism. He became consumptive, went to the country, was 
doctored in the provincial town, and took to his bed at Or61, 
where I saw him for the last time just after the Crimean war. 
He was in a dreadful state of emaciation : one could even see 
how his enormous hand joined on to the two bones of his 
lower arm ; his face was all eyes, and they were still the same 


beautiful serious eyes, with a penetrating expression of inquiry 
in them. He was constantly coughing and spitting, but was 
loth to die, and reluctant to believe he was dying. Poor pock- 
marked M^ha^ whom he had rescued^ was with him and nursed 
him. In my presence, at his own wish, a wonder-working ic6n 
was brought. I remember the expression of his face when he 
prayed to it. . . . He died a few days later ! 

Students of the didactic writings of Tol8toy''s later 
years will notice how closely his injunctions to a man to 
keep to the first woman, whoever she be, with whom he 
has had intimate relations, correspond with the line 
actually followed by his brother Demetrius. 

When Tolstoy left the University, however, these things 
were still unthought of. Let us, before returning to the 
events of his own life at that time, notice some books which 
he read between the ages of fourteen and twenty- one. 
They included : 

The Sermon on the Mount from St. Matthew'^s Gospel, 
Rousseau^s Confession and Emile^ and 
Dickens'*s David Copperfieldy 

which all had an *• immense ^ influence on him. 

In another category came works which he says had 
* very great ' influence. These were : 

Rousseau's Nouvelle Helo'ise^ 
Sterne's Seiitimental Journey^ 
Poushkin's Eugene (hieginy 
Schiller's The Robbers, 
GkSgoPs Dead Souls, 
Tourg^ners A Sportsman*s Sketches, 
Drouzhinin's Polenka Sax, 

Grigordvitch's AntSn Goremj^ka, and the chapter Taman 
from L^rmontof's A Hero of Our Times, 

In a third category he mentions some of GdgoPs 


Shorter Stories, and Prescotfs Conquest of Mejrkoy as 
having had ^ great "^ influence. 

In these works one finds many ideas which have been 
congenial to Tolstoy throughout his life, and his adhesion 
to which has only become firmer with age. In illustration 
of this, take a couple of passages from Dickens which 
many readers may have passed without much attention, 
but which to Tolstoy represented the absolute truth of 
the matters they touch on. David Copperfield says of 
Parliament : 

... I considered myself reasonably entitled to escape from 
the dreary debates. One joyful night, therefore, I noted down 
the music of the parliamentary bagpipes for the last time^ and 
I have never heard it since ; though I still recognise the old 
drone in the newspapers without any substantial variation 
(except, perhaps, that there is more of it) all the livelong 

To most Englishmen with memories of Pym and 
Hampden, or personal knowledge of the lives of men who 
have devoted themselves disinterestedly to public afiairs. 
Parliamentary or local, Dickens'*s sneer at Parliament seems 
but a paradox or a joke; but to Tolstoy, with his in- 
herited dislike of Government, this testimony from a great 
English writer (who had served as a Parliamentary reporter) 
seemed irrefutable evidence of the futility of Parliaments. 

Take, again, a passage in which Dickens hits a nail 
adroitly on the head : 

Mr. Micawber had a relish in this formal piling up of words, 
which, however ludicrously displayed in his case, was, I must 
say^ not at all peculiar to him. I have observed it, in the 
course of my life, in numbers of men. It seems to me to 
be a general rule. In the taking of legal oaths, for instance, 
deponents seem to enjoy themselves mightily when they come 
to several grand words in succession, for the expression of one 
idea — as, that they utterly detest, abominate, and abjure, and 


SO forth — and the old anathemas were made relishing on the 
same principle. We talk about the t3rrann7 of words^ but we 
like to tyrannise over them too. We are fond of having a large 
superfluous establishment of words to wait upon us on great 
occasions ; we think it looks important^ and sounds well. As 
we are not particular about the meaning of our liveries on 
State occasions, if they be but fine and numerous enough, so 
the meaning or necessity of our words is a secondary considera- 
tion, if there be but a great parade of them. 

No modem writer has ever more carefully eschewed the 
practice Dickens here attacks than Tolstoy has done through- 
out his career. Indeed, he is far stricter than Dickens 
himself in this respect. 

But much more important than the influence of Dickens 
was that of Rousseau, of whom Tolstoy once remarked : 

I have read the whole of Rousseau — all his twenty volumes, 
including his Dictionary of Music, I was more than enthusiastic 
about him, I worshipped him. At the age of fifteen I wore a 
medallion portrait of him next my body instead of the Orthodox 
cross. Many of his pages are so akin to me that it seems to 
me that I must have written them myself. 

Another writer who influenced Tolstoy, though to a 
very much smaller extent, was Voltaire, of whom he says : 

I also remember that I read Voltaire when I was very young 
and his ridicule (of religion) not only did not shock me, but 
amused me very much. 

Everything Tolstoy has done in his life he has done with 
intensity ; and that this applies to the way in which he 
read books in his youth, is shown by the fact that we find 
him as an old man, in 1898, in What is Art? according 
the highest praise to books he had read before he was 
twenty-one, or even before he was fourteen. 

It was in the spring of 1847 that Tolstoy, who was 
not yet nineteen, returned to his estate of Ydsnaya 


PolyiosLy to live with his dear Aunty Tatitoa ; to * perfect ' 
himself, to study, to manage his estate, and to improve 
the condition of his serfs. The last part of this pro- 
gramme, at any rate, was not destined to have much 
success. Though one must never treat Tolstoy's fiction as 
strictly autobiographical, yet A Squire's Morning gives a 
very fair idea of his own efforts to improve the lot of his 
serfs, and of the difficulties and failures he encountered 
in the course of that attempt. In that story Prince 
Nehludof decides to leave the University and settle in the 
country, and writes to his aunt : 

As I already wrote you^ I found affairs in indescribable dis- 
order. Wishing to put them right, I discovered that the chief 
evil is the truly pitiable, wretched condition of the serfs, and 
this is an evil that can only be remedied by work and patience. 
If you could but see two of my serfs, David and Iv^n, and the 
life they and their families lead, I am sure the sight of these 
two poor wretches would convince you more than all I can say 
in explanation of my intention. 

Is it not my plain and sacred duty to care for the welfare of 
these seven hundred people for whom I must account to God ? 
Will it not be a sin if, following plans of pleasure or ambition, 
I abandon them to the caprice of coarse Elders and stewards ? 
And why should I seek in any other sphere opportunities of 
being useful and doing good, when I have before me such a 
noble brilliant and intimate duty } 

Not only is this letter just such as Tolstoy himself 
may have written, but the difficulties Nehludof en- 
counters when he tries to move his peasants from the ruts 
to which generations of serfdom had accustomed them, are 
just those Tolstoy himself met with : the suspicion shown 
by the serfs towards any fresh interference on the part of 
the master, and the fact that ways to which a community 
have grown accustomed are not easily changed by the 
sudden effort of a well-intentioned but inexperienced 


After leaving Kazin, Tolstoy spent the summer of 1847 
at Y^naya, but in the autumn we find him in Peters- 
burg, and early next year he entered for examination at 
the University of that city. 

On the 18th of the following February he wrote to his 

1848 brother Sergius : 

I write you this letter from Petersburg, where I intend to 
remain for ever, ... I have decided to stay here for my 
examinations and then to enter the service. . . . 

In brief, I must say that Petersburg life has a great and 
good influence on me : it accustoms me to activity and supplies 
the place of a fixed table of occupations. Somehow one 
cannot be idle ; every one is occupied and active ; one cannot 
find a man with whom one could lead an aimless life, and one 
can't do it alone. . . . 

I know you will not believe that I have changed, but will 
say^ 'It's already the twentieth time, and nothing comes of 
you — the emptiest of fellows.* No, I have now altered in 
quite a new way. I used to say to myself: 'Now I will 
change,' but at last I see that I have changed, and I say, ' I 
have changed.' 

Above all, I am now quite convinced that one cannot live 
by theorising and philosophising, but must live positively, ue, 
must be a practical man. That is a great step in advance and 
a great change ; it never happened to me before. If one is 
young and wishes to live, there is no place in Russia but Peters- 
burg for it . . . 

On the 1st of May he wrote again to his brother, in a 
very different strain : 

Serybzha! I think you already say I am 'the emptiest of 
fellows,' and it is true. God knows what I have done ! I came 
to Petersburg without any reason, and have done nothing use- 
ful here, but have spent heaps of money and got into debt. 
Stupid ! Insufferably stupid ! You can't believe how it 
torments me. Above all, the debts, which I must pay as soon as 
possible, because if I don't pay them soon, besides losing the 

Tolstoy in 1848, after he had left the University. 

— ^-, -^ ^- 


monej^ I shall lose my reputation. ... I know you will cry 
out; but what's to be done? One commits such folly once 
in a lifetime. I have had to pay for my freedom (there was 
no one to thrash me, that was my chief misfortune) and for 
philosophising, and now I have paid for it. fie so kind as to 
arrange to get me out of this false and horrid position — penni- 
less and in debt all round. 

He goes on to mention that he had passed two examina- 
tions at the University, but that he had altered his mind, 
and now, instead of completing his examinations, wanted 
to ^ enter the Horse Guards as a Junker.^ (A Junker was 
a young man who volunteered for the army as a Cadet. 
Before receiving a commission, a Junker lived with the 
officers, while preparing to become one of them.) 

God willing, I will amend and become a steady man at last. 
I hope much from my service as a Junker, which will train me 
to practical life, and nolens-volens I shall have to earn the rank 
of officer. With luck, i,e, if the Guards go into action, I may 
get a commission even before the usual two years are up. The 
Guards start for the front at the end of May. At present I 
can do nothing : first, because I have no money (of which I 
shall not need much, I fancy), and secondly, because my two 
birth-certificates are at Yjisnaya. Have them sent on as soon 
as possible. 

Before long, Tolstoy was again writing to his brother : 

In my last letter I wrote much nonsense, of which the chief 
item was that I intended to enter the Horse Guards ; I shall 
act on that plan only in case I fail in my examinations, and if 
the war is a serious one. 

The war in question was Russia's share in quelling the 
Hungarian rebellion of 1 849. Not a thought of the justice 
or otherwise of the cause seems at that time to have 
crossed the mind of him who in later life became so power- 
ful an indicter of war. 



This is Tolstoy's own summary, written many years 
later, of the period we are now dealing with : 

It was very pleasant living in the country witb Aunty 
Tati^na, but an indefinite thirst for knowledge drew me away 
to a distance. This was in 1848^ and I was still uncertain 
what to undertake. In Petersburg two roads were open to 
me. I could either enter the army, to take part in the 
Hungarian campaign^ or I could complete my studies at the 
University, to enter the Civil Service. My thirst for knowledge 
conquered my ambition, and I again began to study. I even 
passed two examinations in Law, but then all my good resolu- 
tions broke down. Spring came, and the charm of country life 
again drew me back to my estate. 

Of the two examinations he passed at this time he 
says : 

In 1848 I went to pass the examinations for my degree at 
Petersburg University, knowing literally nothing, and reading 
up during only one week. I worked day and night ; and 
passed with Honours in Civil and Criminal Law. 

But in spite of this success he did not take the remain- 
ing examinations, but returned to Ydsnaya without having 
obtained a degree — and finally abandoned the attempt to 
do so. 

In later times, when Tolstoy'*s reputation was world- 
wide, critics often amused themselves by pointing out 
inconsistencies in his conduct and questioning his sincerity. 
But the proof of his sincerity is writ large in the story of 
his life. Time after time, from the earliest pages of his 
Diary, we find him vehemently resolving never more to do 
certain things, but always to do other things, and again 
and again confessing in the greatest tribulation, that he 
had failed to carry out his intentions; yet in spite of 
everything he returns, and again returns, to his earliest 
ideals and gradually shapes his life into accord with them, 


and eventually forms habits which, when he first extolled 
them, appeared utterly beyond his reach. Not insincerity 
but impetuosity, retrieved by extraordinary tenacity of 
purpose, has always characterised him. It was the same 
with his thirst for knowledge as with his yet deeper thirst 
after righteousness. Often as he was swayed by the lures of 
life, each of those two great desires found its satisfaction 
at last. 

The letters quoted above show some consciousness of 
the fact that there is a practical side to life not to be 
mastered by theorising ; but the duty of learning by ex- 
perience as well as by ratiocination is one Tolstoy has 
very seldom dwelt on, and never, I think, realised at all 

Another characteristic matter alluded to in these letters 
is the difficulty he found himself in for lack of his birth- 
certificates and other papers. Russia has long suffered 
from a superabundance of red tape, which contrasts 
strongly with the slipshod habits of the people, and pro- 
motes the hatred of officialism that is there so common. 
The fact that Tolstoy has on several occasions been put to 
great inconvenience for lack of certificates, which it was 
not in his nature methodically to keep in readiness, is a 
small matter, but it has probably had its share in increas- 
ing his strong dislike of governments. 

From Petersburg he brought back with him to Y^naya 
a gifted but drunken Grerman musician named Rudolph, 
with whom he had chanced to make acquaintance, and 
whose talent he had recognised. For some time Tolstoy 
devoted himself passionately to music, acquiring sufficient 
skill on the piano to become an excellent and sympathetic 
accompanist. He was always very susceptible to the in- 
fluence of music, and in music as in literature had 
strong sympathies and antipathies. Rudolph supplies the 
principal figure in Tolstoy"'s story Jlberty written several 
years later. 


Aunt Tatiuna, who had played the piauo excellently in 
youth, but had quite given it up for nearly thirty years, 
and who was now fifty-three years of age, resumed its 
practice and, Tolstoy tells us, played duets with him, and 
often surprised him by the accuracy and beauty of her 

For the next three years he lived partly at Yasnaya and 
partly in Moscow, and led a life alternating between the 
asceticism of his brother Demetrius and the self-indulgence 
of his brother Sergius; with dissipation, hunting, gam- 
bling, and the society of gipsy-girl singers. These were 
among the wildest and most wasted years of his life ; but 
even here we find him, in the summer of 1850, resuming 
his Diary with penitence and self-reproach, and drawing 
up a time-table of how his days are in future to be spent : 
estate management, bathing, diary-writing, music, dinner, 
rest, reading, bathing, and again estate business to close 
the day. This curriculum was, however, neglected. Gusts 
of passion again swept away his good resolutions. 

At this time he made his first attempt to start a 


school for the peasant children of Y^naya; but it was 
closed again two years later when he was in pecuniary diffi- 
culties ; and it was not till 186^ that he discovered that 
he had infringed the law by opening it without official 

In relation to women, Tolstoy's ideal was a regular and 
affectionate family life. Women were for him divided 
into groups : those sacred ones who could be looked upon 
as possible wives or sisters, and those who, like the gipsy 
singers, could be paid for and possessed for short periods. 
To try to wipe out by a money payment any obligation 
arising from intimate relations seems to have been his 
fixed rule. His animal passions were very strong, and late 
in life I have heard him say that neither drinking, cards, 
smoking, nor any other bad habit, had been nearly so hard 
for him to overcome as his desire for women. But he 


never doubted that that desire was a bad one. To judge 
him fairly, it must be remembered how loose was the 
general tone of the society in which he lived, and that 
the advice given him at this critical time of his life 
by those who were his natural guides, was not that he 
should live a chaste life, but that he should attach himself 
to a woman of good social position. In his Confemon he 
tells us : 

The kind aunt with whom I livedo herself the purest of 
beings^ always told me that there was nothing she so desired 
for me as that I should have relations with a married woman : 
' Bien ne forme un jeune homme, comme une liaison avec une femme 
comme il faui' [Nothing so forms a young man^ as an intimacy 
with a woman of good breeding]. Another happiness she 
desired for me was that I should become an aide-de-camp, and if 
possible aide-de-camp to the Emperor. But the greatest happi- 
ness of all would be that I should marry a very rich girl and 
become possessed of as many serfs as possible. 

We never find Tolstoy involved in any family scandal, or 
called on to fight a duel about women ; but his Diary at 
this period contains many traces of his struggles and his 
falls ; as when he writes : 

Men whom I consider morally lower than myself, do evil 
better tiian I. ... I live an animal life^ though not quite 
debauched. My occupations are almost all abandoned, and 
I am greatly depressed in spirit. 

His pecuniary affairs became disordered, owing to his 
gambling and other bad habits, and towards the end of 
1850 he thought of trying to earn money by taking on a 
contract to run the post-station at Toula, which before 
railways were built was an undertaking of some importance. 
Varied however as Tolstoy^s abilities unquestionably are. 
Nature never intended him to be a man of business, and 
this plan fortunately came to nothing. 


The winter of 1860-51 he passed for the most part 
in Moscow, and as a foretaste of the simplification of life 
1850- which was to be such a prominent feature of his later 
1851 years, we find him writing to his aunt at Y^naya : 
* Je dine a la maison avec des stchi et kasha dont je me con- 
tente parfaitenient ' [I dine at home on cabbage soup and 
buckwheat porridge, with which I am quite contented] ; 
and he goes on to say that he only awaits the preserves and 
home-made liqueurs (which she no doubt sent him) to have 
everything as he was accustomed to have it in the country. 
We find Aunty Tatidna warning him against card- 
playing. Tolstoy replies in French : 

* Tout ce que vous me dites au sujet de la perversity du jeu 
est tr^ vrai et me revient souvent k Tesprit. Cest pourquoi 
je crois que je ne jouerai plus. . . . 'Je crois/ mais j'esp^re 
bient6t vous dire pour sQr. 

In March 1851 he returned to Moscow after visiting 
Ydsnaya, and he notes in his Diary that he went there 
with the treble aim of playing cards, getting 
married, and entering the Civil Service. Not one 
of these three objects was attained. He took an aversion 
to cards. For marriage he considered a conjunction of love, 
reason, and fate to be necessary, and none of these was pre- 
sent. As to entering the service, it was again the fact that 
he had not brought the necessary documents with him that 
barred the way. 

In March he writes to Aunty Tatidna and says he believes 
it to be true that spring brings a moral renovation. It 
always does him good, and he is able to maintain his good 
intentions for some months. Winter is the season that 
causes him to go wTong. 

* All that you say about the perversity of play is very true, and 
I often think about it^ and that is why I believe that 1 shall gamble no 
more. . . . ^ I believe^' but I hope soon to tell you for certain. 


Next came a period of religious humility : he fasted 
diligently and composed a sermon, which of course was 
never preached. He also tried unsuccessfully to write a 
gipsy story and an imitation of Sterne's Sentimental 

This period of his life was brought to a close by the 
return from the Caucasus, on leave of absence, of his 
eldest brother Nicholas, who was by this time an artillery 

Anxious to economise and pay off the debts he had con- 
tracted at cards, especially one of Rs. 4000 to Ogarydf (the 
poet, Herzen's friend), whose estate was not far from Yds- 
naya, Leo resolved to accompany his brother on the latter's 
return to the Caucasus. He entrusted his estate to the care 
of his brother-in-law (Mary's husband), who was to pay his 
debts and allow him only Rs. 500 (then equal to about ^80) 
a year to live on, and he gave his word not to play cards 
any more. 

Tolstoy had another reason for wishing to escape from 
his accustomed surroundings. His brother Sergius was very 
fond of the gipsy choirs, famous in Russia for their musical 
talent. These choirs used to visit YAsnaya, and Leo Tolstoy, 
who shared his brother's susceptibility to the fascinations 
of the gipsy girls, saw a means of safety in flight to the 

Before closing this chapter, let us note the extraordinary 
freedom enjoyed by young men of Tolstoy's class in those 
days of serfdom. Economically, serfdom supplied them with 
means, at the expense of a class deprived of almost all rights 
and absolutely dependent on their owners. Even if a mem- 
ber of the aristocracy ruined himself, family interest or a 
prudent marriage often retrieved the position for him. 
Religious restraint counted for little, for side by side with 
superstition, scepticism was conHhon among the educated. 
The standard of morals expected of a young man was 
elastic and ill-defined. No irksome sense of public duty 


pressed on his attentiou. Politics, in our sense of the 
word, were forbidden ; and though he had to enter the 
State service (civil or military), this was regarded either 
as a way of making a career for himself, or as a mere 

The detachment from the real business of life in which 
young Russians grew up, and the comparative isolation in 
which they lived on their country estates, explain the 
extremely radical conclusions often arrived at by those of 
them who wished to make the world better. Chain a man 
to the heavily laden car of social progress, and he can only 
advance very slowly, though any advance he does accomplish 
represents much effort and is of practical importance. 
Detach him from that car, and he may easily and pleasantly 
fly away on the winds of speculation to the uttermost realm 
of the highest heaven, without its producing any imme- 
diately perceptible result on the lives of his fellow-men. 
What I mean is, that the less a man is involved in 
practical work, the easier and pleasanter it is for him to 
take up extreme positions. I do not mean to deny that 
activity in the realm of thought and feeling exerts an 
unseen yet potent influence on other minds, and ultimately 
on practical afiairs. 

A knowledge of the social surroundings in which Tolstoy 
grew up is essential to a due understanding of the doctrines 
he subsequently taught. It was because he grew up in a 
detached and irresponsible position that the state of his own 
mind and soul were to him so much more important than 
the immediate efiect of his conduct on others, and the same 
cause led him to remain in ignorance of lessons every intelli- 
gent man of business among us learns of necessity. 

His independent position made easier the formation of 
that state of mind free from intellectual prejudice which 
enabled him later on to examine the claims of the Church, 
of the Bible, of the economists, of governments and the most 
firmly established manners and customs of society, untram- 


melled by the {ear of shocking or hurting other people ; 
though all the time his feelings were so sensitive that it has 
never been possible for him to doubt or question the good- 
ness of those lines of conduct which he had admired and 
approved when in childhood he saw them practised by those 
near and dear to him. 

Contrasting his moral attitude with that of a young 
Englishman anxious to do right in our day, I should say 
that Tolstoy had no adequate sense of being a responsible 
member of a complex community with the opinions and 
wishes of which it is necessary to reckon. On the contrary, 
his tendency was to recognise with extraordinary vividness 
a personal duty revealed by the working of his own con- 
science and intellect apart from any systematic study of 
the social state of which he was a member. 

He thus came to see things in a way we do not see them, 
while he remained blind to some things with which we are 
quite familiar. That is one reason why he is so extra- 
ordinarily interesting : he puts things in a way no English- 
man would ever dream of putting them, and yet we feel how 
near akin we of the Western twentieth-century world are to 
this nineteenth-century Russian noble, who has so much in 
common with the medieval saint and the Oriental fatalist ; 
and this helps us to realise that all nations and classes of 
men are, indeed, of one blood. 

Later on, in the sequel to this work, when we have to deal 
with Tolstoy's peaceful anarchism and his conviction that 
no external regulation of society is necessary, but that all 
men would naturally do right were they not hampered by 
man-made laws, it will be useful to bear in mind that 
his own strength grew through having to steer unaided 
through the stormy seas of passion, and from finding his 
own way to a haven the lights of which had first shone on 
him in childhood. Like the rest of mankind, he judges 
others by himself. 



Birukdf (especially for Tolstoy's BecoUectioru and Diary), Behrs^ 

and Novy Mir. 
Education and liutruction, and On the Education of the People, in 

vol. iv. of Tolstoy's collected works : Moscow^ 1903. 
ConfeeHon, A reliable Russian edition is the one published by the 

Svobodnoe Siovo, Christchurch^ 1901. 
Zagoskin, in letoritcheeky V^stnik : January 1894. 
Nazaryef^ in Istoritchesky VSstnik : November 1900. 
Tolstoy's talk with Pogodin^ quoted in Mihaylovsky's Literary 

RecoUectione I Petersburg, 1900. 
Light is also thrown on this period by Tolstoy's Childhood, Boy- 
hood, and Youth, The Memoirs of a Billiard Marker, Two Euesars, 
A Squire's Morning, and Albert (which^ however^ are not autobio- 
graphies), as well as by stories included in Tolstoy's Readers for 
School-children — The Old Horse and How I Learned to Ride, 



Journey. Russian Conquest. Letters to Aunt Tatiina. Diary. 
Cossacks. He volunteers. Enters army. Story of a gaming 
debt. Sado. Dreams for the future. Childhood. Shooting. 
Boulka. Slow promotion. The Raid. The Censor. Danger. 
Applies for discharge. Applies to Gortchakof. Memoirs 
of a Billiard Marker. Receives his commission. His 

The brothers Nicholas and Leo left Ydsnaya Polydna on 
SOth April 1851, and spent a couple of weeks in Moscow. 
The frankness of Leo''s intercourse with his Aunt 
Tatidna is illustrated by the following letter which 
he wrote, telling her of a visit he paid to Sokdlniki, a 
pleasant outskirt of Moscow on the borders of a pine 
forest, where a fete is held on May-day. 

That he wrote in French is explained by the fact that 
Tatidna, like many Russian ladies educat^l early in the 
nineteenth century, knew French better than she did 

* J'ai ^t^ k la promenade de Sokdlniki par un temps detes- 
table^ c'est pourquoi je n'ai rencontr^ personne des dames de la 
society, que j'avais envie de voir. Comme vous pr6tendez que 
je suis un homme k epreuves^ je suis all6 parmi les pl6bs^ dans 
les tentes boh^miennes. Vous pouvez ais^ment vous figurer le 

* I went to the fete at Sokdlniki in detestable weather^ which was 
why I did not meet any of the society ladies I wished to see. As you 
say I am a man who tests himself^ I went among the plebs in the 
gipsy tents. You can easily imagine the inward struggle I there 



combat int^rieur qui s'engagea U-bas pour et contre. Au reste 
j'en sortis victorieux^ c.k d. n'ayant rien donn6 que ma bene- 
diction aux joyeux descendants des illustres Pharaons. Nicolas 
trouve que je suis un compagnon de voyage tr^s agreable, si ce 
n'etait ma propret^. II se f&che de ce que^ comme il le dit, je 
change de linge 12 fois par jour. Moi je le trouve aussi com- 
pagnon tr^s agreable^ si ce n'^tait sa salete. Je ne sais lequel 
de nous a raison. 

On leaving Moscow, instead of travelling to the Caucasus 
by the usual route vid Vordnesh, Nicholas Tolstoy, who 
liked to do things his own way, decided that they would 
drive first to Kaz^. Here they stayed a week, visiting ac- 
quaintances, and that was long enough for Leo to fall in 
love with a young lady to whom his shyness prevented his 
expressing his sentiments. He left for the Caucasus bearing 
his secret with him, and we hear no more of the matter. 

From Kaz^n they drove to Sar^tof, where they hired 
a boat large enough to take their travelling carriage on 
board, and with a crew of three men, made their way down 
the Volga to Astrakhan, sometimes rowing, sometimes 
sailing, and sometimes drifting with the stream. 

The scorn of luxury and social distinctions so prominent 
in Tolstoy'*s later philosophy, was at this period more to 
the taste of his brother Nicholas. A gentleman drove 
past them in Kazdn leaning on his walking-stick with 
ungloved hands, and that was sufficient to cause Leo to 
speak of him contemptuously, whereupon Nicholas, in his 
usual tone of good-natured irony, wanted to know why a 
man should be despised for not wearing gloves. 

From Astrakhan they had still to drive some two hun- 

ezperienced, for and against. However^ I came out victorious: 
that is to BtLj, having given nothing but my blessing to the gay 
descendants of the illustrious Pharaohs. Nicholas considers me a 
very agreeable travelling companion^ except for my cleanliness. He 
is cross because he says I change my linen 12 times a day. 1 also 
find him a very agreeable companion^ except for his dirtiness. I do 
not know which of us is right 


dred and seventy miles to reach Staroglddovsk, where 
Nicholas Tol8toy"*8 battery was stationed. The whole 
journey from Moscow, including the stay in Kazdn, took 
nearly a month. 

It may be convenient here to explain why the Russians 
were then fighting in the Caucasus. Georgia, situated to 
the south of the Caucasian Mountains, had been voluntarily 
annexed to Russia in 1799 to escape the oppression of 
Persia; and it therefore became politically desirable for 
Russia to subdue the tribes that separated her from her 
newly acquired dependency. During the first half of the 
nineteenth century this task proceeded very slowly, but at 
the time we are speaking of, Prince Baryatinsky, in com- 
mand of the Russian forces stationed on the left bank of 
the river Terek, which flows into the Caspian Sea, was 
undertaking a series of expeditions against the hostile 
native tribes. Up to that time the Russians had held hardly 
anything south of the Terek and north of the Caucasian 
Mountains, except their own forts and encampments ; but 
in less than another decade, Bar}'atinsky had captured 
Sh^myl, the famous leader who had long defied Russia, 
and had subdued the whole country. 

Soon after the brothers Tolstoy arrived at StarogUdovsk, 
Nicholas was ordered to the fortified camp at Goryatche- 
vodsk (* Hot Springs ■*), an advanced post recently estab- 
lished to protect the invalids who availed themselves of 
those mineral waters. 

Here Ijeo Tolstoy first saw, and was deeply impressed by, 
the beauty of the magnificent mountain range which he 
has so well described in The Cossacks, In July 1861 he 
wrote to his Aunt Tati^na : 

* Nicolas est parti dans une semaine apr^s son arriv^e, et moi 
je Vy suivis^ de sorte que nous sommes presque depuis trois 

* Nicholas left within a week of his arrival and I have followed him^ 
so that we have now heen almost three weeks here^ lodging in a tent. 


semaines ici ou nous logeons dans une tente. Mais comme le 
temps est beau et que je me fais un peu a ce genre de vie^ je 
me trouve tr^s bien. Ici il y a des coups d'oeil magnifiques^ k 
commencer par I'endroit oii sont les sources. C'est une 6norme 
montagne de pierres Tune sur Tautre, dont les unes se sont d6- 
tach6es et ferment des esp^ces de grottes^ les autres restent 
suspendues a une grande hauteur. Elles sont toutes couples 
par les courants d'eau chaude^ qui tombent avec bruit dans 
quelques endroits et couvrent surtout le matin toute la partie 
61ev6e de la montagne d'une vapeur blanche qui se d6tache 
continuellement de cette eau bouillante. L'eau est tellement 
chaude qu'on cuit dedans les oeufs hard en trois minutes. Au 
milieu de ce ravin sur le torrent principal il y a trois moulins, 
I'un au-dessus de I'autre^ qui sont construits d'une mani^re 
toute particuli^re et tr^s pittoresque. Toute la joum6e les 
femmes tartares ne cessent de venir au-dessus et au-dessous de 
ces moulins pour laver leur linge. II faut vous dire qu'elles 
lavent avec les pieds. C'est comme une fourmili^re toujours 
remuante. Les femmes sont pour la plupart belles et bien 
faites. Les costumes des femmes orien tales malgr6 leur pau- 
vret6, sont gracieux. Les groupes pittoresques que forment les 
femmes, joint k la beauty sauvage de I'endroit fait un coup 

But as the weather is fine and I am getting accustomed to this kind 
of life^ I feel very well. There are magnificent views here^ beginning 
where the springs are situated. It is an enormous mountain of rocks 
one upon another^ some of which are detached and form^ as it were, 
grottoes ; others remain suspended at a great height. They are all 
intersected by torrents of hot water which fall noisily in certain parts 
and, especially in the morning, cover the whole upper part of the 
mountain with a white vapour which this boiling water continually 
gives off. The water is so hot that one can boil eggs hard in three 
minutes. In the middle of this ravine, by the chief torrent, stand 
three mills one above the other, built in a quite peculiar and very 
picturesque manner. Ail day long, above and below these mills, 
Tartar women come unceasingly to wash clothes. I should mention 
that they wash with their feet. It is like an ant-hill, always in 
motion. The women, for the most part, are beautiful and well formed. 
In spite of their poverty the costumes of Oriental women are grace- 
ful. The picturesque groups formed by the women, added to the 
savage beauty of the place, furnish a really admirable coup d'ani. 


d'oeil v6ritablement admirable. Je reste tr^s souvent des heures 
a admirer ce paysage. Puis le coup d'oeil du haut de la mon- 
tagne est encore plus beau et tout k fait dans un autre genre. 
Mais je crains de vous ennuyer avec mes descriptions. 

Je suis tr6s content d'etre aux eaux puisque j'en profite. Je 
prends des bains ferrugineux et je ne sens plus de douleur aux 
pieds. J'avais toujours des rhumatismes, mais pendant notre 
voyage sur Teau^ je crois que je me suis encore refroidL Je 
me suis rarement aussi bien port6 qu'k present et malgr6 les 
grandes chaleurs je fais beaucoup de mouvements. 

As showing how hot these springs were, it may be 
mentioned that a dog belonging to Nichol£is tumbled into 
the water and was scalded to death. 

The officers Tolstoy met, he found to be men without 
education, and he wrote : ^ At first many things in this 
society shocked me, but I have accustomed myself to them, 
without however attaching myself to these gentlemen. I 
have found a happy mean, in which there is neither pride 
nor familiarity.^ He was helped by the fact that Nicholas 
was popular with every one ; and by adopting the plan of 
having vddka, wine, and something to eat always ready for 
those who dropped in to see him, he succeeded in keeping 
on good terms with these men, though he did not care 
to know them intimately. 

The following extract from his Diary preserves the 
record of the rapidly changing moods he experienced in 
those days. Soon after reaching the Caucasus he noted : 

Start Urt, IIM June 1851. 
Yesterday I hardly slept all night. Having posted up my 

I very often remain for hours admiring the view. Then again^ in 
quite a different way, the view from the top of the mountain is even 
more beautiful. But I fear to weary you with my descriptions. 

I am very glad to be at the springs^ for I benefit by them. 1 take 
ferruginous baths, and no longer have pain in my feet. 1 still have 
rheumatism^ but believe I again caught cold during our voyage by 
water [down the Vdlga]. I have seldom been so well as I am now, 
and in spite of the great heat I take much exercise. 


Diary, I prayed to God. It is impossible to convey the sweet- 
ness of the feeling I experienced during my prayer. I said 
the prayers I usually repeat by heart : ' Our Father,' * To the 
Virgin,' etc., and still remained in prayer. If one defines 
prayer as a petition or as thanksgiving, then I did not pray. 
I desired something supreme and good; but what, I cannot 
express, though I was clearly conscious of what I wanted. I 
wished to merge into the Universal Being. I asked Him to 
pardon my crimes ; yet no, I did not ask that, for I felt that 
if He had given me this blissful moment. He had pardoned 
me. I asked, and at the same time felt that I had nothing to 
ask, and that I cannot and do not know how to ask ; I thanked 
Him, but not with words or thoughts. I combined in one 
feeling both petition and gratitude. Fear quite vanished. I 
could not have separated any one emotion — faith, hope, or love 
— from the general feeling. No, this was what I experienced 
yesterday : it was love of God, lofty love, uniting in itself all 
that is good, excluding all that is bad. How dreadful it was 
to me to see the trivial and vicious side of life ! I could not 
understand its having any attraction for me. How I asked God 
with a pure heart to accept me into His bosom ! I did not feel 
the flesh. . . . But no, the carnal, trivial side again asserted 
itself, and before an hour had passed I almost consciously 
heard the voice of vice, vanity, and the empty side of life ; I 
knew whence that voice came, knew it had ruined my bliss ! 
I struggled against it, and yet yielded to it. I fell asleep 
thinking of fame and of women ; but it was not my fault, I 
could not help it. 

Again, on 2nd July, after writing down reflections on 
sufPering and death, he concludes : 

How strong I seem to myself to be against all that can 
happen ; how firm in the conviction that one must expect 
nothing here but death ; yet a moment later I am thinking 
with pleasure of a saddle I have ordered, on which I shall ride 
dressed in a Cossack cloak, and of how I shall carry on with 
the Cossack girls; and I fall into despair because my left 
moustache is higher than my right, and for two hours I 
straighten it out before the looking-glass. 


By August he was back again at StarogUdovsk, and 
full of energy, risked his life as a volunteer in expeditions 
against the Tchitch^nians. Having met Ilyd Tolstoy, an 
officer and a relation, he was introduced by him to the 
Commander-in-Chief, Greneral Baryatinsky. The latter 
had noticed Leo Tolstoy during one of the expeditions, 
and on making his acquaintance complimented him on his 
bravery and advised him to enter the army. Ilyd Tolstoy 
uiged the same advice, and Leo accepted it. Towards the 
end of October he went a tiresome but beautiful seven- 
days'* journey to Tiflis, where he had to pass the examina- 
tion qualifying him to become a Junker (Cadet). From 
there he wrote to his Aunt Tatidna a letter containing the 
first intimation of the vocation that was ultimately to 
make him far more famous than Baryatinsky himself : 

* Vous rappelez-vous^ bonne tante, un conseil que vous 
m'avez donn6 jadis — celui de faire des remans ? £h bien ! je 
siiis votre conseil et les occupations dont je vous parle con- 
sistent a &ire de la litt^rature. Je ne sais si ce que j'6cris 
parattra jamais dans le monde, mais c'est un travail qui 
m'amuse et dans lequel je per86v^re depuis trop longtemps 
pour I'abandonner. 

For two months he lived in the ' German ' suburb of 
Tiflis, paying Rs. 5 a month (at that time equal to about 
16s.) for his two-roomed lodging; disturbed by no one, 
writing Childhood^ and trying to enter the army — the 
main obstacle to which was that, as usual, he found him- 
self without his birth-certificate and other documents. He 
seldom enjoyed good health for many consecutive months, 
and during his stay in Tiflis he was confined to the house 

* Do you remember^ dear Aunt^ the advice you once gave me — to 
write novels ? Well^ I am following your advice^ and the occupation 
I mentioned to you consists in producing literature. I do not know 
if what I am writing will ever be published, but it is work that 
amuses me^ and in which I have persevered too long to abandon it 



for some weeks by illness. At last, on 23rd December 
1851, he was able to write to his brother Sergius an- 
nouncing that in a few days he expected to receive his 
appointment as Junker in the 4th battery of artillery, 
and that on the day he received it he would set out for 
Staroglddovsk, and from there go on campaign, and to 
the best of his ability ^assist, with the aid of a cannon, 
in destroying the predatory and turbulent Asiatics.' He 
goes on to tell of hunting. He had been out nine times, 
and had killed two foxes and about sixty grey hares. He 
had also hunted wild boar and deer, but had not killed any. 
A little later, on 6th January 1852, we find 
him again in Tiflis, writing to Aunt Tatidna : 

* Je viens de recevoir votre lettre du 24 Novembre et je 
vous y r6ponds le moment m^me (comme j'en ai pris I'habi- 
tude). Demi^rement je vous ^crivais que votre lettre m'a 
fait pleurer et j'accusai ma maladie de cette faiblesse. J'ai eu 
tort. Toutes vos lettres me font depuis quelque temps le 
meme effet. J'ai toujours 6t6 LyOva-rydva [Leo, Cry-baby]. 
Avant cette faiblesse me faisait honte^ mais les larmes que je 
verse en pensant k vous et k votre amour pour nous, sont 
tellement deuces que je les laisse couler^ sans aucune fausse- 
honte. Votre lettre est trop pleine de tristesse pour qu'elle ne 
produise pas sur moi le m^me effet. C'est vous qui toujours 
m'avez donne des conseils et quoique malheureusement je ne 
les aie pas suivis quelquefois, je voudrais toute ma vie n'agir 
que d'apr^s vos avis. Permettez-moi pour le moment de vous 

♦ I have just received your letter of 24 November, and I reply 
at once (as I have formed the habit of doin^). I wrote you lately 
that your letter made me cry, and I blamed my illness for that weak- 
ness. 1 was wrong. For some time past all your letters have had 
the same effect on me. I always was Leo Cry-baby. Formerly I was 
ashamed of this weakness, but the tears I shed when thinking of you, 
and of your love for us, are so sweet that I let them flow without any 
false shame. Your letter is too full of sadness not to produce the 
same effect on me. It is you who have always given me counsel, 
and though unfortunately I have not always followed it, 1 should 
wish all my life to act only in accord with your advice. For the 


dire Teffet qu'a produit sur moi votre lettre et les id€ts qui me 
sont venues en la lisant. Si je vous parle trop franchement je 
sais que vous me le pardonneres en faveur de I'amour que j'ai 
pour vous. £n disant que c'est votre tour de nous quitter 
pour aller rejoindre ceux qui ne sont plus et que vous avez tant 
aim^s, en disant que vous demandez a Dieu de mettre un terme 
k votre existence qui vous semble si insupportable et isol6e, — 
pardon, ch^re tante, mais il me parait qu'en disant cela vous 
offensez Dieu et moi et nous tons qui vous aimons tant. Vous 
demandez k Dieu la mort, c. k dire le plus grand malheur qui 
puisse m'arriver (ce n'est pas une phrase, mais Dieu m'est 
t^moin que les deux plus grands malheurs qui puissent m'arriver 
ce serait votre mort ou celle de Nicolas — les deux personnes 
que j'aime plus que moi-m^me). Que resterait-il pour moi si 
Dieu exau9ait votre pri^re ? Pour faire plaisir k qui, voudrais- 
je devenir meilleur, avoir de bonnes qualitds, avoir une bonne 
reputation dans le monde ? Quand je fais des plans de bonheur 
pour moi, I'id^e que vous partagerez et jouirez de mon bonheur 
m'est tou jours pr6sente. Quand je fais quelque chose de bon, 
je suis content de moi-m^me, parce que je sais que vous serez 
contente de raoL Quand j'agis mal, ce que je crains le plu 

moment, permit me to tell you the effect your letter has had on me, 
and the thoughts that have come to me while reading it If I speak 
too freely, I know you will forgive it, on account of the love I have 
for you. By saying that it is your turn to leave us, to rejoin those 
who are no more and whom you have loved so much, by saying that 
you ask God to set a limit to your life which seems to you so insup- 
portable and isolated — pardon me, dear Aunt, but it seems to me that 
in so saying you offend God and me and all of us who love you so 
much. You ask God for death, that is to say, for the greatest mis- 
fortune that can happen to me. (This is not a phrase, for God is 
my witness that the two greatest misfortunes that could come to me 
would be your death and that of Nicholas — the two persons whom I 
love more than myself) What would be left to me if God granted 
your prayer.^ To please whom should I then wish to become better, 
to have good qualities and a good reputation in the world ? When 
I make plans of happiness for myself, the idea that you will share 
and enjoy my happiness is always present. When I do anything 
good, I am satisfied with myself because 1 know you will be satisfied 
with me. When I act badly, what I roost fear is to cause you 


c'est (le vous faire clu chagrin. Voire amour est tout pour moi, 
et vous demandez k Dieu qu'il nous s6pare ! Je ne puis vous 
dire le sentiment que j'ai pour vous^ la parole ne suffit pas pour 
vous I'exprimer et je crains que vous ne pensiez que j'exag^re 
et cependant je pleure k chaudes larmes en vous 6crivant. 

In the same letter he tells of one of those remarkable 
* answers to prayer/ instances of thought-transference, or 
(if the reader pleases) simply coincidences, which have 
played so great a part in the history of all religious bodies 
from the Catholic Church to the Christian Scientists and 
the Peculiar People. 

* Aujourd'hui 11 m'est arriv6 une de ces choses qui m'auraient 
fait croire en Dieu^ si je n'y croyais d6j4 fermement depuis 
quelque temps. 

L'6t6 a St^ry Urt tous les officiers qui y 6taient ne faisaient 
que jouer et assez gros jeu. Comme en vivant au camp il est 
impossible de ne pas se voirsouvent^ j'ai tr^s souvent assist^ au 
jeu et malgr^ les instances qu*on me faisait j'ai tenu bon 
pendant un mois; mais un beau jour en plaisan tan t^ j'ai mis un 
petit enjeu, j'ai perdu, j'ai recommenc6^ j'ai encore perdu, la 
chance en ^tait mauvaise, la passion du jeu s'est reveill^e et en 
deux jours j'ai perdu tout ce que j'avais d'argent et celui que 
Nicolas m'a donn^ (k peu pr^s 250 r. argent) et par dessus cela 

grief. Your love is everything to me, and you ask God to separate 
us ! 1 cannot tell you what 1 feel for you ; words do not suffice to 
express it. I fear lest you should think I exaggerate, and yet I shed 
hot tears while writing to you. 

* To-day one of tliose things happened to me which would have 
made me believe in God, if I had not for some time past firmly 
believed in Him. 

In summer, at Stary Urt, all the officers who were there did no- 
thing but play, and play rather high. As, living in camp, one has to 
meet frequently, I was very often present at play, but in spite of 
persuasions I kept steady for a month ; but one fine day for fun I 
put down a small stake. I lost, staked again, and lost again. I was 
in bad luck ; the passion for play reawoke in me, and in two days I 
had lost all the money I hiid^ and what Nicholas gave me (about 


encore 500 r. argent pour lequel j'ai donn6 une lettre de change 
payable au mois de Janvier 1852. 

II faut vous dire que pr^s du camp il y a un Aoul qu'habitent 
les Tchitch^niens. Un jeune gar9on (Tchitch^nien) Sado 
venait au camp et jouait^ mais comme il ne savait pas compter 
et inscrire il y avait des chenapans qui le trichaient. Je n'ai 
jamais voulu jouer pour cette raison contre Sado^ et m^me je 
lui ai dit qu'il ne fallait pas qu'il jou&t^ parce qu on le trompait 
et je me suis propos6 de jouer pour lui par procuration. II m'a 
et6 tr^s reconnaissant pour ceci et m'a fait cadeau d'une bourse. 
Comme c*est Tusage de cette nation de se faire des cadeaux 
mutuels, je lui ai donn6 un miserable fusil que j Wais achet6 
pour 8 rb. II faut vous dire que pour devenir Koundk, ce qui 
veut dire ami, il est d'usage de se faire des cadeaux^ et puis de 
manger dans la maison du Koundk, Apr^s cela, d'apr^s Tancien 
usage de ces peuples (qui n'existe presque plus que par tradi- 
tion) on devient ami k la vie et k la mort^ c.A d. que si je lui 
demande tout son argent^ ou sa femme^ ou ses armes^ ou tout 
ce qu'il a de plus pr^cieux^ il doit me les donner^ et moi aussi 
je ne dois rien lui refuser. Sado m'a engag^ de venir chez lui 

Rs. 250) and another Rs. 500 besides^ for which 1 gave a note-of- 
hand payable iu January 1852. 

I should tell you that near the camp there is an Aoal [native 
village] inhabited by Tchitchcniaiis. A young fellow (a Tchitchenian) 
named Sado used to come to the camp and play ; but as he could 
neither reckon nor write^ there were scamps who cheated him. For 
that reason I never wished to play against Sado^ and I even told him 
that he ought not to play, because he was being cheated ; and I 
offered to play for him. He was very grateful to me for this, and 
presented me with a purse ; and as it is the custom of that nation to 
exchange presents^ I gave him a wretched gun I had bought for 
Rs. 8. I should tell you that to become a Kottndk, that is to say, a 
friendy it is customary to exchange presents^ and afterwards to eat in 
the house of one's Koundk, After that, according to the ancient 
custom of these peoples (which hardly exists now except as a tradi- 
tion) you become friends for life and death : that is to say, if I asked 
of him all his money^ or his wife, or his weapons, or all the most 
precious things he has^ he must give them to me, and I also must 
not refuse him anything. lb>udo made me promise to come to his 


et d'etre Koundk, J'y suis alle. Apr^s m'avoir r6gal6 k leur 
mani^re, il m'a propose de choisir dans sa maison tx>ut ce que je 
voudnds — ses armes, son cheval . . . tx>ut. J'ai voulu choisir 
ce qu'il y avait de moins cher et j'ai pris une bride de cheval 
mont6e en argent, mais il m'a dit que je roffensais et m'a 
oblige de prendre une ifvord qui vaut au moins 100 r. arg. 

Son p^re est un homme assez riche, mais qui a son argent 
enterr^ et ne donne pas le sou k son fils. Le fils pour avoir de 
Targent va voler chez Tennemi des chevaux, des vaches ; quel- 
quefois il expose 20 fois sa vie pour voler une chose qui ne vaut 
pas 10 r., mais ce n'est pas par cupidite qu'il le fait, mais par 
genre. Le plus gprand voleur est tr^s estim6 et on I'appelle 
'DzhigU,' un Brmye, Tant6t Sado a 1000 r. arg., tantdt pas le 
sou. Apr^s une visite chez lui, je lui ai fait cadeau de la 
montre d'argent de Nicolas et nous sommes devenus les plus 
grands amis du monde. Plusieurs fois il m'a prouv6 son 
d^vouement en s'exposant k des dangers pour moi, mais 
ceci pour lui n'est rien — c'est devenu une habitude et un 

Quand je suis parti de Staiy Urt et que Nicolas y est rest6, 
Sado venait chez lui tous les jours et disait qu'il ne savait que 

house and become his Kouuak. I went. After haviug regaled me 
in their fashion, he asked me to choose an3rthing in his house that I 
liked : his weapons, his horse — anything. I wished to choose what 
was of least value, and took a horse's bridle with silver mountings ; 
but he said I was offending him, and obliged me to take a sword worth 
at least Rs. 100. 

His father is a rather rich man, but keeps his money buried, and 
does not give his son a cent. The son, to have money, goes and 
steals horses and cows from the enemy. Sometimes he risks his life 
20 times to steal something not worth Rs. 10, but he does it not 
from greed, but because it is 'the thing.' The greatest robber is 
most esteemed, aud is called Dzhigit, 'a Brave,* Sometimes Sado 
has Rs. 1000, sometimes not a cent. After one visit to him, I gave 
him Nicholas's silver watch, and we became the greatest friends in 
the world. He has proved his devotion several times by exposing 
himself to danger for my sake ; but that is nothing to him — it has 
become a habit and a pleasure. 

When I left Stary Urt and Nicholas remained there, Sado used to 
go to him every day, saying that he did not know how to get on 


devenir sans moi et qu'il s'ennuyait terriblement. Par line 
lettre je faisais connaftre k Nicolas, que mon cheval 6tant 
malade, je le priais de m'en trouver un k Stiry Urt; Sado 
ayant appris cela n'eut rien de plus presse que de venir chez 
moi et de me donner son cheval, malgr6 tx>ut ce que j'ai pu 
faire pour refuser. 

Apr^s la b^tise que j'ai fait de jouer k Stiry Urt, je n'ai plus 
repris les cartes en mains, et je faisais continuellement la 
morale k Sado qui a la passion du jeu et quoiqu'il ne connaisse 
pas le jeu, a toujours un bonheur 6tonnant. Hier soir je me suis 
occup^ k penser k mes affaires pecuniaires, k mes dettes; je 
pensais comment je ferais pour les payer. Ayant longtemps 
pens^ k ces choses, j'ai vu que si je ne d6pense pas trop d'argent, 
toutes mes dettes ne m'embarrasseront pas et pourront petit k 
petit 6tre payees dans 2 ou S ans ; mais les 500 rbs., que je 
devais payer ce mois, me mettaient au d6sespoir. 11 m'^tait 
impossible de les payer et pour le moment ils m'embarrassaient 
beaucoup plus que ne I'avaient fait autrefois les 4000 d'Ogaryeff. 
Cette b^tise d'avoir fait les dettes que j'avais en Russie et de 
▼enir en feire de nouvelles ici me mettait au ddsespoir. Le 
soir en faisant ma pri^re, j'ai pri6 Dieu qu'il me tire de cette 
d^sagr^able position et avec beaucoup de ferveur. ' Mais com- 

without me, and that he felt terribly dull. I wrote to Nicholas 
saying that as my horse was ill I begged him to find me one at Stary 
Urt. Sado having learnt this, must needs come to me and give me 
his horse, in spite of all I could do to refuse it. 

After the folly I committed in playing at Stary Urt, I did not touch 
a card again, aud I was always lecturing Sado, who is devoted to 
gambling and, though he does not know how to play, always has 
astonishing luck. Yesterday evening I was engaged in cousideriug 
my money matters aud my debts, and thinking how I was to pay 
them. Having long thought of these things, 1 saw that if 1 do not 
spend too much, all my debts will not embarrass me, but can be paid 
off little by little in 2 or 3 years ; but the Rs. 500 that I had to pay 
this month, threw me into despair. It was impossible for me to 
pay it, and at the momeut it embarrassed me much more than did 
previously the 4000 of Ogaryof. The stupidity, after having contracted 
those debts in Russia, of coming here and adding fresh ones, made 
me despair. In the evening while saying my prayers, I asked God — 
and very fervently — to get me out of this disagreeable scrape. ' But 


ment est-ce que je puis me tirer de cette affaire ? ' pensai-je en 
me couchant. ^ II ne peut rien arriver qui me domie la possi- 
bilite d'acquitter cette dette.' Je me repr^sentais d6}k tous 
les desagr6ments que j'avais k essuyer k cause de cela: how 
when he presents the note for collection^ the authorities will 
demand an explanation as to why I did not pay, etc. ' Lord, 
help me ! ' said I, and fell asleep. 

Le lendemain je re^ois une lettre de Nicolas a laquelle 6tait 
jointe la votre et plusieurs autres — il m'^crit : 

The other day Sddo came to see me. He has won your notes- 
of-hand from Knorring, and has brought them to me. He was 
so pleased to have won them, and asked me so often, ' What do 
you think } Will your brother be glad that I have done this ? ' 
that I have grown very fond of him. That man is really 
attached to you. 

N'est-ce pas 6tonnant que de voir ses vceux aussi exaac^s 
le lendemain m^me? C. kd., qu'il n'y a rien d'aussi etonnant 
que la bont6 divine pour un etre qui la merite si peu que moi. 
£t n'est-ce pas que le trait de d6vouement de Sado est admi- 
rable ? II sait que j'ai un frere Serge, qui aime les chevaux et 
comme je lui ai promis de le prendre en Russie quand j'y irai, il 
m'a dit, que d(^t-il lui en coQter 100 fois la vie, il volera le 
meilleur cheval qu'il y ait dans les montagnes, et qu'il le lui 

how can I get out of this scrape } * thought I, as I lay down. ' No- 
thing can happen that will make it possible for me to meet that debt.' 
I already pictured to myself all the unpleasantnesses I should have to 
go through because of it. (See English sentence in the French text, 
above. ) 

Next day I received a letter from Nicholas enclosing yours and 
several others. He wrote me : (See English sentence in the French 
text, above). 

Is it not astonishing to see one's petitions granted like this the very 
next day ? That is to say, there is nothing so wonderful as the divine 
goodness to one who merits it so little as I. And is not the trait of 
Sddo's devotion admirable } He knows I have a brother Sergius, who 
loves horses, and as I have promised to take him to Russia when 
I go, he tells me that, if it costs him his life 100 times over, he 
will steal the beet horse to be found in the mountains, and will take 
it to him. 


Faites, je vous prie, acheter a Toiila un Marvelled pistol et 
un musical- box, si cela ne codte pas trop cher. Ce sont des 
choses qui lui feront beaucoup de plaisir. 

In explanation of this letter one has to mention that 
Sddo was a ^peacefuP Tchitchenian, that is, one friendly 
to Russia (though his tribe in general were hostile), and 
further, that the passages printed in English in the midst 
of the French text, are in the original written in Russian. 

A few days later we find Tolstoy on his way back to 
Staroglddovsk, stopping (probably for post-horses) at the 
post^station Mozddk, and again writing his aunt a long 
letter in which he said : 

♦ La religion et Texp^rience que j'ai de la vie (quelque 
petite qu'elle soit) m'ont appris que la vie est une 6preuve. 
Dans raoi elle est plus qu'une epreuve, c'est encore Texpiation 
de mes fautes. 

J'ai dans Tidee que I'id^e si frivole que j'ai eu d'aller faire un 
voyage au Caucase — est une id6e qui m'a 6t6 inspir^e d'en haut. 
Cest la main de Dieu qui m'a guid6 — ^je ne cesse de Ten re- 
mercier. Je sens que je suis devenu meilleur ici (et ce n'est 
pas beaucoup dire puisque j'ai 6t6 tr^s mauvais) et je suis 
fermement persuade que tout ce qui peut m arriver ici ne sera 
que pour mon bien, puisque c'est Dieu lui-m^me qui Ta voulu 
ainsi. Peut-^tre c'est une id6e bien hardie> n^anmoins j'ai 

Please^ have a 6-harrelled pistol bought in Toula and sent to me, 
and also a musical-box, if that does not cost too much. These are 
things which will give him much pleasure. 

* Religion and the experience I have of life (however small it may 
be) have taught me that life is a trial. In my case it is more than a 
trial^ it is also an expiation of my faults. 

It seems to me that the frivolous idea I had of journeying to the 
Caucasus was an idea with which I was inspired from above. It is 
the hand of God that has guided me— I do not cease to thank Him 
for it. I feel that I have become better here (and that is not saying 
much^ for I was very bad) and I am firmly persuaded that all that can 
happen to me here can only be for my frood, since it is God himself 
who has 80 willed it. Perhaps it is a very audacious notion ; never- 


cette conviction. C'est pour cela que je supporte les fatigues 
et les privations physiques dont je parle (ce ne sont pas des 
privations physiques — il n'y en a pas pour un garqon de 28 
ans qui se porte bien) sans les ressentir, m^me avec une esp^ce 
de plaisir en pensant au bonheur qui m'attend. 

Voilk comment je le repr^sente : 

Apr^s un nombre ind6termin6 d'anndes, ni jeune, ni vieux^ 
je suis a Yisnaya ; mes affaires sont en ordre, je n'ai pas d'in- 
quietudes^ ni de tracasseries. Vous habitez YiLsnaya aussL 
Vous avez un peu vieillie^ mais £tes encore fraiche et bien por- 
tante. Nous menons la vie que nous avons mende, — je tra- 
vaille le matin, mais nous nous voyons presque toute la joum6e. 
Nous dinons. Le soir jc fais une lecture qui nc vous ennuie 
pas^ puis nous causons — moi je vous raconte ma vie au Caucase, 
vous me parlez de vos souvenirs — de mon p^re^ de ma m^re, 
vous me contez des ' terrible tales ' que jadis nous ^coutions les 
yeux effray^s et la bouche b^ante. Nous nous rappelons les 
personnes qui nous ont 6t6 cheres et qui ne sont plus ; vous 
pleurerez^ j'en ferai de m^me^ mais ces larmes seront douces ; 
nous causerons des fr^res qui viendront nous voir de temps en 
temps^ de la ch^re Marie qui passera aussi quelques mois 

theless it is my conviction. That is why I bear the fatigues and the 
physical privations I have mentioned (they are not physical privations : 
there are none for a fellow of 23 who is in good health) without 
resenting them^ and even with a kind of pleasure in thinking of the 
happiness that awaits me. 

This is how I picture it : 

After an indefinite number of years^ neither young nor old^ I am at 
Yasnaya ; my affairs are in order^ 1 have no anxieties or worries. 
You also live at Yasnaya. You have aged a little^ but you are still 
fresh and in good health. We lead the life we used to lead. I work 
in the morning, but we see one another almost all day. We have 
dinner. In the evening I read aloud something which does not weary 
you^ and then we talk. I tell you of my life in the Caucasus, you 
tell me your recollections of my father and my mother; and you 
tell me the ' terrible tales ' we used to listen to with frightened eyes 
and open mouths. We remind each other of those who were dear to 
us and who are now no more ; you will weep, I shall do the same, 
but those tears will be sweet; we shall talk about my brothers, 
who will come to see us from time to time ; of dear Marie, who 


de I'ann^e a Yasnaya quelle aime tant, avec tous ses enfants. 
Nous n'aurons point de connaissances — personne ne viendra 
nous ennuyer et faire des comm6rages. C'est un beau r£ve, 
mais ce n'est pas encore tout ce que je me permets de r^ver. — 
Je suis niari6 — ma femme est une personne douce^ bonne, 
aimante ; elle a pour vous le m^me amour que moi ; nous avons 
des enfants qui vous appellent grandmaman ; vous habitez la 
grande maison en haut, la m^me chambre que jadis habitait 
grandmaman. Toute la maison est dans le m^me ordre qu'elle 
a 6t6 du temps de papa et nous recommen9ons la m^me vie, 
seulement en changeant de r6le ; vous prenez le rdle de grand- 
maman, mais vous ^tes encore meilleure ; moi le rdle de papa, 
mais je d^sesp^re de jamais le m^riter; ma femme celui de 
maman, les enfants le ndtre ; Marie le rdle des deux tantes, 
leurs malheurs excepts. . . . Mais il manquera un personnage 
pour prendre le rdle que vous avez jou6 dans notre famille ; 
jamais il ne se trouvera une ftme aussi belle, aussi aimante que la 
vdtre. Vous n'avez pas de successeur. II y aura trois nouveaux 
personnages, qui paraltront de temps en temps sur la sc^ne — 
les fr^res, surtout Tun qui sera sou vent avec nous : Nicolas — 
vieox gar9on, chauve, retir^ du service, toujours aussi bon, aussi 

with all her children will also spend some months of the year at 
Y^naya, which she loves so much. We shall have no acquaint- 
ances — no one will come to weary us and carry tales. It is a 
beautiful dream, but it is not all that I let myself dream. — I am 
married. My wife is a gentle creature, kind and affectionate ; she 
has the same love for you as I have. We have children who call you 
Grandmamma ; you live upstairs in the big house, in what used to be 
Grandmamma's room. The whole house is as it was in Papa's time, 
and we recommence the same life, only changing our roles. You take 
the role of Grandmamma, but you are still better ; I take Papa's 
place, though I despair of ever deserving it; my wife, that of 
Mamma ; the children take ours ; Marie, that of the two aunts (ex- 
cepting their misfortunes) . . . but some one will be lacking to take 
the part you played in our family — never will any one be found with 
a soul so beautiful, so loving, as yours. You have no successor. 
There will be three new characters who will appear from time to time 
on the scene— the brothers, especially the one who will oflen be 
with us, Nicholas : an old bachelor, bald, retired from service, as 


I imagine how he will, as of old, tell the children fairy tales 
of his own invention, and how they will kiss his greasy hands 
(but which are worthy of it), how he will play with them, how 
my wife will bustle about to get him his favourite dishes, how 
he and I will recall our common memories of days long past, 
how you will sit in your accustomed place and listen to us with 
pleasure ; how, as of yore, you will call us, old men, ' Ly6- 
votchka ' and ' Nik61enka,' and will scold me for eating with 
my fingers, and him for not having clean hands. 

Si on me faisait empereur de Russie, si on me donnait le 
P6rou^ en un mot si une fee venait avec sa baguette me 
demander ce que je desire — la main sur la conscience, je r6pon- 
drais que je desire seulement que ce reve puisse devenir une 

He returned to Starogladovsk a Junker, and in February 
took part in an expedition as a non-commissioned artillery 
ofRcer, and nearly received a St. George's Cross for bravery, 
but lost it because, once again, he had not his documents 
in order. 

Writing to his Aunt Tatiana some months later (June 
1852), he says: 

* Pendant cette expedition, j'ai eu Toccasion d'etre deux 
fois presents k la croix de St. Georges et je n'ai pas pu la 
recevoir k cause du retard de quelques jours de ce maudit 
papier. J'ai ete presente pour la joumee du 17 Fevrier (ma 
f6te), mais on a et6 oblige de refuser k cause du manque de ce 

good and noble as ever. (See paragraph in English iu the French 
text, above.) 

If they made me Emperor of Russia, or gave me Peru : in a word, 
if a fairy came with her wand asking me what I wished for — my hand 
on my conscience, I should reply that I only wish that this dream 
may become a reality. 

* During this expedition, I twice had the chance of being pre- 
sented to receive a St. George*s Cross, and I was prevented from 
receiving it by that confounded paper being a few days late. I was 
nominated to receive it on 17 February (my name's day), but it had 
to be refused me for want of that paper. The list of nominations was 


papier. La liste des presentations partit le 19, le 20 le papier 
6tait arrive. Je vous avoue franchement que de tous les hon- 
neurs militaires c'est cette seule petite croix que j'ai eu la 
vanite d'ambitionner. 

On a second occasion he had the refusal of the coveted 
cross, but his Colonel pointed out to him that besides 
being sometimes given to Junkers favoured by their officers, 
these crosses were also, and more usually, granted to old 
and deserving privates, whom they entitled to a life pen- 
sion; and that if Tolstoy would forego the one intended 
for him, it would be given to a veteran who deserved it, 
and to whom it would secure a subsistence for his old age. 
Tolstoy, to his honour be it said, renounced the coveted 
decoration. He had a third chance of securing it later on, 
but this time, absorbed in playing chess till late at night, 
he omitted to go on duty, and the Commander of the 
Division noticing his absence, placed him under arrest 
and cancelled the award which had been already made 
in his favour. Chess, I may here mention, has always 
been a favourite game of Tolstoy's. He has never 
studied the game from books, but has played much and 
plays well. 

The kind of warfare in which he was now engaged, is 
well described in The Raid and The Wood-Felling. A 
detachment would set out to seize a Tartar village, make 
a clearing in a forest, or capture cattle. It would ex- 
change cannon- and rifle-shots with Tartar skirmishers, and 
would lose perhaps half a dozen men killed or wounded 
before accomplishing its object ; but the more serious part 
of the work came when the expedition returned to the 
fortified camp from which it had started. As soon as 
the retreat commenced, Tartar sharpshooters would swarm 

sent off on the 19th, the [mper came on the 20th. I frankly confess 
that of all military honours^ that little cross is the only one which 
I have had the vanity to desire. 


out, trying to cut off' stragglers, and inflicting as much loss 
as possible. Even after the Russians were beyond rifle- 
shot, a chance ball from a Tartar cannon might reach them 
within sight of their own quarters. 

To see a single man one has known well, struck down 
by a deadly bullet, may impress an observer as vividly 
as the myriad corpses of a great battlefield; and in 
Tolstoy's earliest war-sketches one feels the note of horror 
at war quite as strongly as when, later on, he described 
far bloodier struggles at Sevastopol. 

When not on campaign, Tolstoy was generally stationed 
at the Cossack village of Staroglddovsk, where he lived 
more or less the life vividly described in TTie Cossacks. 
The Greb^nsky Cossacks located there were descended from 
Russian Dissenters (Old-Believers) who had fled Ax>m the 
persecution of former Tsars and had settled among the 
Mohammedan Tchitchenians near the river Terek. They 
had retained the purity of their Russian speech, and re- 
mained nominally Christians, but had intermarried with 
the natives and adopted many of their manners and 
customs. Love of freedom, idleness, robbery, hunting, 
and war were their most prominent characteristics. They 
considered themselves altogether superior both to the semi- 
savage Mohammedan natives and to the tame, disciplined 
Russians. Drunkenness was not so much a weakness of 
these men as ' a tribal rite, to abandon which would have 
been considered as an act of apostasy.*" The work was 
done by the women, or by hired Nogai-Tartar labourers. 
The women were physically better developed than the men, 
and were celebrated for their beauty, combining the purest 
type of Caucasian features with the powerful build of 
Northern women. In their relations with men, especially 
before marriage, they enjoyed absolute freedom. 

There was much that attracted Tolstoy in the simple 
life of these people : their frankness, their skill in hunting, 
their contempt for all that is artificial or weak, and their 


freedom from the moral struggles that tormented him. 
With one beautiful girl — Mariana — he fell deeply in love, 
but she remained indifferent to the attentions of a man who 
was inferior in the arts of war and hunting to some of the 
young men of her own tribe. His courtship failed (as he 
says of his hero in The Cossaehs) because he could not, 
like a dashing young Cossack, ^ steal herds, get drunk on 
Tchikir wine, troll songs, kill people, and when tipsy climb 
in at her window for a night, without thinking who he was 
or why he existed.' 

Though one has always to be carefully on one's guard 
against taking Tolstoy's stories as though they were auto- 
biographical, there are passages in The Cossacks which 
certainly apply to himself, and give a vivid idea of some 
of his moods at this time, as well as of his way of life 
while living as a Junker at Staroglddovsk. 

On one occasion the hero is out hunting in the woods, 
and asks himself: 

' How must I live so as to be happy^ and why was I formerly 
not happy ? ' And he remembered his previous life, and felt 
disgusted with himself. . . . And suddenly a new light seemed 
revealed to him. ' Happiness/ said he to himself, ' consists in 
living for others. That is clear. The demand for happiness is 
innate in man ; therefore it is legitimate. If we seek to satisfy 
it selfishly : by seeking wealth, fame, comforts, or love, circum- 
stances may render the satisfaction of these desires impossible. 
It follows that they are illegitimate, but not that the demand 
for happiness itself is illegitimate. But what desire is there 
that can always be satisfied in spite of external conditions } 
What desire } Love, self-sacrifice ! ' He was so glad and 
excited at discovering this, as it seemed to him, new truth, 
that he jumped up and began impatiently seeking for some one 
for whom he might quickly sacrifice himself: to whom he 
might do good, and whom he could love. 'Yes; I need 
nothing for myself !' he kept mentally repeating: 'Then, why 
not live for others } ' 


In the same story Tolstoy tells us that his hero lived 
monotonously and r^ularly. 

He had little to do with his Commander or fellow-officers. 
In the Caucasus the position of a Junker with means of his 
own was in this respect particularly favourable. He was not 
sent to drill nor kept at work. As a reward for going on an 
expedition he was recommended for a commission^ and mean- 
while he was left alone. The officers considered him an 
aristocrat^ and therefore in their intercourse with him bore 
themselves with dignity. Card -playing and the officers' 
carousals with singers^ of which he had had experience when 
on service with the detachment, seemed to him unattractive, 
and he avoided the officers' society. 

Again he tells us that his hero 

often thought seriously of abandoning all else, enrolling him- 
self as a Cossack, buying a cottage, and marrying a Cossack 
girl . . . and living with Uncle £r6shka, going with him to 
hunt and to fish, and with the Cossacks on expeditions. ' Why 
don't I do this ? What am I waiting for ? ' he asked him- 
self. . . . But a voice told him to wait, and not to decide. He 
was restrained by a dim consciousness that he could not fully 
live the life of Eroshka and Loukashka, l>ecause he had another 
happiness, — he was restrained by the thought that happiness 
lies in self-sacrifice. . . . He continually sought an opportunity 
to sacrifice himself for others, but it did not present itself. 

In the same story the Cossack Loukashka kills a Tartar 
^ brave ' at night, and rises greatly in the popular esteem 
and in his own ; and the hero thinks to himself: 

' What nonsense and confusion ! A man kills another and 
is as happy and satisfied as though he had done an excellent 
deed. Does nothing tell him there is here no cause for great 
rejoicing ? That happiness consists not in killing others, but 
in sacrificing oneself?' 

We have a yet safer record of Tolstoy's feelings in his 


Diary, in which about this time he noted down the follow- 
ing reflections concerning the chief faults he was conscious 
of in himself : 

1. The passion of gaming is a covetous passion^ gradually 
developing into a craving for strong excitement. Against this 
passion one can struggle. 

2. Sensuality is a physical need^ a demand of the body^ 
excited by imagination. It increases with abstinence^ and 
therefore the struggle against it is very difficult. The best way 
is by labour and occupation. 

3. Vanity is the passion least harmful to others and most 
harmful to oneself. 

In another passage, indicating quite a different phase of 
consciousness, he writes : 

For some time past repentance for the loss of the best years 
of life has begun to torment me^ and this since I commenced 
to feel that I could do something good. . . . There is some- 
thing in me which compels me to believe that I was not bom 
to be like everybody else. 

In May we find him going on furlough to Pyatigdrsk, 
to drink the mineral water and to be treated for rheu- 
matism. This is his description of Pyatigdrsk, written 
nearly twenty years later in his Reading Book for Children : 

Pyatigorsk (Five Hills) is so called because it stands on 
Mount Besh-tau. Besk means in Tartar 'five/ Tau means 
' hill.' From this mountain flows a hot sulphur stream. The 
water is boilings and over the places where it springs from the 
mountain there is always steam, as from a samovar. 

The whole place where the town stands is very gay. From 
the mountain flow hot springs, and at the foot of the mountain 
flows the river Podkoiimok. The mountain slopes are wooded, 
all around are fields, and afar ofl* one sees the great Caucasian 
mountains. On these the snow never melts, and they are 
always as white as sugar. When the weather is clear, wherever 
one goes, one sees the great mountain, Elbrus, like a sugar 
cone. People come to the hot springs for their health ; and 



over the springs^ arbours and awnings have been erected, and 
gardens and paths have been laid out all around. In the 
morning a band plays, and people drink the waters, or bathe, 
or stroll about. 

Here he was joined by his sister Mary and her husband. 
She also came to Pyatigorsk to be cured of rheumatism. 
She tells how her brother Leo was at this time attracted 
by Spiritualism, and would sometimes even borrow a table 
from a cafe and have a siance on the boulevard. He 
remained in Pyatigorsk till 5th August, and then returned 
to StarogUdovsk. From thence he wrote to his aunt, 
repeating what he had said before of the officers with whom 
he had to associate. 

* II y a une trop grande difference dans T education, les 
sentiments et la mani^re de voir de ceux que je rencontre ici 
pour que je trouve quelque plaisir avec eux. II n'y a que 
Nicolas qui a le talent, malgre Tenorme difference qu'il y a 
entre lui et tous ces messieurs, ^ s'amuser avec eux et k 6tre 
aime de tous. Je lui envie ce talent, mais je sens que je ne 
puis en faire autant. 

He mentions that for some time past he has acquired a 
taste for reading history, and says that he perseveres in his 
literary occupations. He had already three times rewritten 
a work he had in hand, and intended to rewrite it again. 
He felt much more content with himself at this time, and 
adds : 

t II y a eu un temps ou j'etais vain de mon esprit et de ma 
position dans le monde, de mon nom ; mais k present je sais et 

* There is too great a difference in the education, the sentiments, 
and the point of view of those I meet here, for me to find any 
pleasure in their company. Only Nicholas, in spite of the enormous 
difference between him and all these gentlemen, has the talent to 
amuse himself with them, and to be loved by ail. I envy him this 
talent, but feel that 1 cannot do the same. 

t There was a time when I was vain of my intelligence, of my posi- 
tion in the world, and of my name ; but now I know and feel that if 


je s«ns que s'il y a en moi quelque chose de bon et que si j ai k 
en rendre grfice k la Providence, c'est pour un cceur bon, 
sensible et capable d'amour, qu'il lui a plu de me donner et de 
me conserver. 

On 29th June he again notes in his Diary : 

He whose aim is his own happiness, is bad ; he whose aim is 
the good opinion of others, is weak ; he whose aim is the happi- 
ness of others, is virtuous ; he whose aim is God, is great 

On 2nd July he completed Childhoody and a few days later 
despatched the manuscript, signed only with the initials 
L. N. T., to the best Petersburg monthly, 7%^ 
Contemporary. On 28th August he received a reply 
from the editor, the poet Nekrdsof, saying he would 
publish the story and that he thought its author had 
talent. Another letter followed, dated 5th September 1862, 
in which Nekrasof said that having re-read the story in 
proof, he found it ^ much better than I had realised at first. 
I can say definitely that its author has talent.^ He added 
that it would appear in the next number of his magazine. 

Tolstoy notes in his Diary : * Received letter from Nek- 
r^of ; praises, but no money.** 

Nekrasofs next letter is dated 30 th October, and explains 
that it is not customary to pay authors for their first work, 
but that he hopes Tolstoy will send him more stories, and 
that in future he will pay him as much as to the very best 
known writers, namely Rs. 50 (nearly £1 at that time) per 
sheet of sixteen pages. He mentioned also that Childhood 
had been very well received by the public. 

Tolstoy kept his authorship a secret, revealing it to no 
one except Nicholas and Aunt Tatiana. His sister Mary 
was by this time back at her husband^s estate, situated near 

there is an3rthiDg good in me, and if I have anything to thank Provi- 
dence for, it is for a good heart, sensitive and capable of love^ which 
it has pleased it to give me and to preserve in me. 


Tourgenefs village of Spdsskoye. There Tourgenef came 
one day to visit her, bringing with him the last number of 
the Contemporary. Full of praise of a new story by an un- 
known author, he began reading it aloud, and to her great 
astonishment Marie recognised, one after another, various 
incidents from her own childhood. Her first guess was that 
Nicholas must have written the story. 

Among the writers who at once acclaimed Tolstoy's 
genius was Pandef, co-editor of the Contemporary^ who, 
Tourgenef pretended, had to be carefully shunned by his 
friends on the Nefsky (the chief street in Petersburg) lest he 
should insist on reading them extracts from the new story. 
Before long the work reached Dostoyevsky in Siberia, and 
he was so struck by it that he wrote to a friend asking him 
to find out who the talented L. N. T. was. 

Meanwhile Tolstoy continued his military career in the 
Caucasus. On his return to Staroglddovsk in August, he 
had noted in his Diary : * Simplicity — that is the quality 
which above all others I desire to attain.** 

He had to pass an unpleasant month in consequence of 
a military review, about which he wrote : ' It was not very 
pleasant to have to march about and fire off cannons; 
especially as it disarranged the regularity of my life ' ; and 
he rejoiced when it was over and he was again able to devote 
himself to * hunting, writing, reading, and conversation with 
Nicholas.** He had become fond of shooting game, at which 
— as at all physical exercises — he was expert ; and he spent 
two or three hours a day at it. He writes to his Aunt 
Tatiana : 

At 100 paces from my lodging I find wild fowl, and in 
half an hour I kill 2, 3, or 4. Besides the pleasure, the 
exercise is excellent for my health, which in spite of the 
waters is not very good. I am not ill, but I often catch cold 
and suffer from sore throat or from toothache or from rheu- 
matism^ so that I have to keep to my room at least two days 
in the week. 


One of the forms of sport he enjoyed during his stay in 
the Caucasus was strepet shooting: the strepet being a 
steppe grouse. Before they migrate in mid- August, these 
birds assemble in enormous flocks, and are extremely wild 
and difficult of approach. It is hardly possible to get 
within two hundred or two hundred and fifty yards of such 
a flock. Tolstoy had a horse that was specially trained for 
this particular sport. On it he used to ride at a foot-pace 
two or three times round a flock, carefully narrowing the 
circle till he got as near as possible without alarming the 
birds. Then he would dash forward at full gallop with his 
gun ready. The moment the birds rose he dropped his 
reins on the horse^s neck, and the well- trained animal would 
instantly stop, allowing its master to take aim. 

Tolstoy's military career was not giving him satisfaction. 
Having left home without any definite plans, he had neglected 
to bring any documents with him, and the result of this was 
that instead of becoming an officer within eighteen months, 
as he expected to do when he entered the army, he now, after 
serving for ten months, received notice that he would have 
to serve another three years before he could obtain his 

In this difficulty he applied to his aunt P. I. Ushkof, 
who by application to an influential friend eventually suc- 
ceeded in hastening his promotion. Meanwhile however 
Tolstoy — who had made up his mind to retire from the 
army as soon as he received his commission — almost lost 

On 24th December he completed the sketch entitled 
Tlie Raid: A Volunteer's Story , and two days later posted 
it to the Contemporary^ in which magazine it appeared in 
March 185S. The following passage occurs in this his 
first story of war, and foreshadows the attitude he ulti- 
mately made definitely his own. He is describing a march 
through Caucasian scenery to a night attack on a Tartar 
Aoul^ and he savs : 


Nature, beautiful and strong, breathed conciliation. 

Can it be that people have not room to live in this beautiful 
world, under this measureless, starry heaven ? Can feelings of 
enmity, vengeance, or lust to destroy one's fellow beings, retain 
their hold on man's soul amid this enchanting Nature ? All 
that is evil in man's heart should, one would think, vanish in 
eontact with Nature — this immediate expression of beauty and 

From the very start we find Tolstoy hampered in his work 
by that incubus of all Russian writers, the Censor. In 
a letter to his brother Sergius in May he writes : * Child- 
hood was spoilt, and The Raid simply ruined by the Censor. 
AH that was good in it has been struck out or mutilated.'* 
In comparing Tolstoy's literary achievement with that of 
Western writers, one should make a large allowance for the 
continual annoyance, delay, mutilation, and suppression 
inflicted on him by that terrible satellite of despotism. 

In January, the battery in which I^o Tolstoy served 
went on active service against Sh^myl. The ex- 
pedition assembled at Fort GnSzny, where scenes of 
debauchery occurred. 

On 18th February Tolstoy''s life was in great danger. A 
grenade fired by the enemy smashed the carriage of a cannon 
he was pointing. Strange to say, however, he was not even 
wounded. On 1st April he returned with his detachment to 
Staroglddovsk ; and in May we find him writing to his 
brother Sergius that he had applied for his discharge, and 
hoped in six weeks'* time to return home a free man. Diffi- 
cult as his admission to the army had been, he found 
that to retire was a yet harder matter, destined to take 
not weeks but years. 

On 13th June his life was again in danger owing to an 
adventure which supplied him with the subject he utilised 
later on in A Prisoner in the Caucasus. 

It being dangerous to travel between the Russian forts 
without an escort, non-combatants, as well as stores and 


baggage, were periodically convoyed from one post to 
another. On these expeditions it was forbidden for any one 
to detach himself from the main body ; but the intolerable 
slowness of the infantry march on a hot day, frequently 
tempted those who were mounted, to ride on, and to run the 
risk of being attacked by the * Tartars ' (who were gener- 
ally Tchitchenians). On one such occasion five horsemen, 
including Tolstoy and his friend S^o, disobeyed the regu- 
lations and rode ahead. The two friends ascended the 
hillside to see whether any foes were visible, while their 
three companions proceeded along the valley below. Hardly 
had the two reached the crest of the ridge when they saw 
thirty mounted Tartars galloping towards them. Calculating 
that there was not time to rejoin their companions in the 
valley, Tolstoy shouted them a warning, and raced off along 
the ridge towards Fort Grdzny, which was their destination. 
The three did not, at first, take his warning seriously, but, 
wasting some precious moments before turning to rejoin the 
column, were overtaken by the Tartars, and two of them 
were very severely wounded before a rescue party from the 
convoy put the enemy to flight. Meanwhile Tolstoy and 
Sddo, pursued by seven horsemen along the hill ridge, had 
to ride nearly three miles to reach the fort. It so happened 
that Tolstoy was trying a young horse of Sddo's, while Sddo 
was riding Tolstoy's ambler, which could not gallop. Tolstoy 
could easily have escaped on Sado'^s fiery horse, but declined 
to desert his comrade. Sado had a gun, but unluckily it was 
not loaded, and so he could only make a pretence of aiming 
at his pursuers. It seemed almost certain that both fugi- 
tives would be killed ; but apparently the Tartars decided 
to capture them alive, perhaps wishing to revenge them- 
selves on S^o for being a pro-Russian, and therefore they 
did not shoot them down. At last a sentinel at Grdzny 
having espied their plight, gave the alarm and some 
Cossacks galloped to their rescue. At sight of these, the 
Tartars made off and the fugitives escaped uninjured. 


Tolstoy continued his habit of forming resolutions ; and 
about this time he wrote : ^ Be straightforward, not rough, 
but frank with all men ; yet not childishly frank without any 
need. . . . Refrain from wine and women . . . the pleasure 
is so small and uncertain, and the remorse so great. . . . 
Devote yourself completely to whatever you do. On ex- 
periencing any strong sensation, wait ; but having once 
considered the matter, though wrongly, act decisively.' 

From the middle of July to October, Tolstoy again 
stayed at Pyatigdrsk. 

A companion he had brought with him to the Caucasus 
was his black bulldog, Boulka. He intended to leave it 
at home, but after he had started, the dog had broken a 
pane of glass and escaped from the room in which it was 
confined, and when Tolstoy, after stopping at the first post- 
station, was just resuming his journey, he saw something 
black racing along the road after him. It was Boulka, who 
rushed to his master, licked his hand, and lay down pant- 
ing, in the shade of a cart. The dog had galloped nearly 
fourteen miles in the heat of the day, and was rewarded by 
being taken to the Caucasus, where it was destined to meet 
with many adventures. 

On one occasion this dog boldly attacked a wild boar, 
and had its stomach ripped open by the latter^s tusk. 
While its wound was being sewn up, the dog licked its 
master^s hand. 

On another occasion, when Tolstoy was sitting at night 
with a friend in the village street, intending to start for 
Pyatigorsk at daybreak, they suddenly heard a sucking-pig 
squeal, and guessed that a wolf was killing it. Tolstoy 
ran into the house, seized a loaded gun, and returned in 
time to see a wolf running straight towards him from the 
other side of a wattle- fence. The wolf jumped on to the 
top of the fence and descended close to Tolstoy who, 
almost touching him with the muzzle of his gun, drew the 
trigger. The gun missed fire, and the wolf raced oflF, 


chased by Boulka and by Tolstoy^s setter, Milton. The 
wolf escaped, but not till it had snapped at Boulka and 
inflicted a slight wound on his head. Strange to say, the 
wolf ventured to return a little later into the middle of the 
street, and again escaped unhurt. 

Not long after, in Pyatigrfrsk, shortly before Tolstoy 
left the Caucasus, while drinking coffee in the garden of 
his lodging, he heard a tremendous noise of men and dogs, 
and, on inquiry, learnt that convicts had been let out of 
gaol to kill the dogs, of whom there were too many in 
the town, but that orders had been given to spare dogs 
wearing collars. As ill-luck would have it, Tolstoy had 
removed Boulka's collar ; and Boulka, apparently recognis- 
ing the convicts as his natural enemies, rushed out into the 
street and flew at one of them. A man had just freed 
the long hook he carried, from the corpse of a dog he had 
caught and held down while his companions beat it to 
death with bludgeons. He now adroitly caught Boulka 
with the hook and drew the dog towards him, calling to 
his mate to kill it, which the latter prepared to do. 
Boulka however bounded aside with such force that the 
skin of his thigh burst where the hook held it, and with 
tail between his legs and a red wound on his thigh, he 
flew back into the house and hid under Tolstoy'^s bed. 
His escape was not of much use. The wolf that had 
snapped at him six weeks before must have been mad, 
for Boulka showed premonitory symptoms of rabies, dis- 
appeared, and was never heard of more. 

Tolstoy'^s state of mind during the latter part of this 
year is indicated by his letters. To his brother Sergius 
he wrote on 20th July : 

I think I already wrote you that I have sent in my resigna- 
tion. God knows^ however, on account of the war with 
Turkey, whether it will be accepted, or when. This disturbs 
me very much, for I have now grown so accustomed to happy 
thoughts of soon settling down in the country, that to return 


to Staroglddovsk and again wait unendingly — as I have to 
wait for everything connected with my service — will be very 

Again, in December, he writes from Staroglddovsk : 

Please write about my papers quickly. This is necessary. 
* When shall I come home ? ' God only knows. For nearly a 
year I have been thinking only of how to sheath my sword, 
but still cannot manage it. And as I must fight somewhere, I 
think it will be pleasanter to do so in Turkey than here, and I 
have therefore applied to Prince Serge Dmftrievitch [Gortcha- 
k6fj about it, and he writes me that he has written to his 
brother, but what the result will be, I do not know. 

It will be remembered that Tolstoy'*s paternal grand- 
mother was a GortchakfSf. Through her he was nearly 
related to Prince S. D. Gortchakof and to his brother. 
Prince Michael Dmitrievitch Gortchakof, who had been a 
friend of his father^s in the war of 1812, and was now in 
command of the Russian army on the Danube. 

The letter continues : 

At any rate by New Year I expect to change my way of life, 
which I confess wearies me intolerably. Stupid officers, stupid 
conversations, and nothing else. If there were but a single 
man to whom one could open one's soul ! Tourg6nef is right : 
'What irony there is in solitude,' — one becomes palpably 
stupid oneself. Although Nik61enka has gone off with the 
hounds — Heaven knows why (Epishka^ and I often call him 
' a pig * for so doing) — I go out hunting alone for whole days 
at a time from morning to evening, with a setter. That is my 
only pleasure — and not a pleasure but a narcotic. One tires 
oneself out, gets famished, sleeps like the dead, and a day has 
passed. When you have an opportunity, or are yourself in 
Moscow, buy me Dickens' David Copperfield in English, and 
send me Sadler s EngUsh Dictionary which is among my books. 

^ The Cossack hunter Epfshka, the original of Er6shka, who figures so 
prominently in Tki Cossacks, 


Of the entries in his Diary at this time, we may note 
the following : 

All the prayers I have invented I replace hy the one prayer, 
' Our Father.' All the requests I can make to God are far more 
loftily expressed and more worthily of Him, in the words ' Thy 
Kingdom come, as in heaven so on earth.' 

About this time he completed his Memoirs of a Billiard 
MarkcTy and sent it to the Contemporary with a letter 
expressing his own dissatisfaction with the hasty workman- 
ship of the story ; it did not appear till more than a year 
later. He was at this time at work on Boyhood. 

Seventeen years after Tolstoy had left the Caucasus, an 
officer stationed at Staroglddovsk found his memory still 
fresh among the Cossacks, and saw Maridna (comparatively 
aged by that time), as well as several elderly Cossack 
hunters who had shot wild fowl and wild boars with 
Tolstoy. More than a quarter of a century after he had 
left the Caucasus, a Cossack rode from Starogl^ovsk to 
Ydsnaya to visit him. In his regiment he left the reputa- 
tion of being an excellent narrator, who enthralled every 
one by his conversation. 

Not till January 1854 did the long-expected order 
arrive allowing him to pass the examination (a pure 
formality at that time) entitling him to become 
an officer. On the 19th he left for home, and on 
2nd February reached Yasnaya, where he enjoyed a three 
weeks^ stay with his Aunt Tatidna, his brother, and a friend. 
On this journey he encountered a severe storm, to which 
we owe The Snow Stomiy published a couple of years later, 
and probably also much of the storm description in Master 
and Man, written in later life. 

The Russo-Turkish war had now begun in earnest, and, 
as a result of his application, he received orders to join the 
army of the Danube, which he set out accordingly to do. 

Of the Caucasian period of his life, as of his University 


days, Tolstoy has at different times expressed himself 
differently. To BirukcSf, in 1905, he spoke of it as one 
of the best times of his life, notwithstanding all his deflec- 
tions from the dimly recognised ideals he held. Yet two 
years earlier, writing of the four periods of his life, he had 
spoken of 

that splendid (especially compared with what follows) innocent, 
joyous^ poetic period of childhood to fourteen years of age, and 
then the second, terrible twenty years of coarse dissipation, 
the service of ambition, vanity, and above all, of lust. . . . 

But what it comes to is, that Tolstoy is a man of moods, 
and judges himself and others, sometimes by ordinary and 
sometimes by extraordinary standards. 



U. Bitovt, Graf L, ToUdoy v literataure i iskousstve : Petersburg, 
1903. (Hereafter called ^Bitovt.') Though ill-arranged, this book 
is valuable to any one engaged on the difficult task of compiling 
a Bibliography of Tolstoy's works. 

Nekr^ofs letters to Tolstoy published in the Literary Supplement 
to the Nim, February 1898. 

Much light is also thrown on this period of Tolstoy's life by the 
following works, which must not be considered autobiographical : 
The Raid, 
The Wood-Felling. 
Meeting a Moscow Acquaintance, 
The CosMocke, and 
The Snow Stomi, 
as well as by stories included in Tolstoy's Readers : 

BoHlka and the Wild Boar, 
MiUon and BoHlka, 
BoiUka and the Wolf, 
What Happened to BoHlka in Pyatigdrsk. 
BoHlka'e and Milton's End, 
A Prisoner in the Caucasus. 



Joins army of the Danube. Siege of Silistria. Sevastopol. 
Projected Newspaper. Sevcutapol in December, Battle of the 
Tchemaya. Capture of the Malahof. Courier to Peters- 
burg. Song. Relations with superiors and fellow-officers. 
Self-depreciation. The Wood-Felling. Sevastopol in May. 
The Censor. On War. 

At twenty-five years of age it fell to Tolstoy's lot to take 
part in a great European war and thereby to extend the 
range of his experience in a way that considerably affected 
his subsequent life and writings. 

Tolstoy tells us that he got his first understanding of 
war from Stendhal, the author of Le Rouge et le Noir and 
Im Chartreuse de Parme. In conversation with Paul 
Boyer, Tolstoy once spoke of those novels as inimitable 
works of art, adding, * I am greatly indebted to Stendhal. 
He taught me to understand war. Re-read the descrip- 
tion of the battle of Waterloo in La Chartreuse de Parme. 
Who ever before so described war ? Described it, that is, 
as it is in reality.^ Do you remember Fabricius riding 
over the field of battle and understanding " nothing "" ? ^ 

Tolstoy's brother Nicholas, though fond of war, also 
disbelieved in the popular romantic view of it, and used to 
say : * All that is embellishment, and in real war there is 
no embellishment.' — * A little later, in the Crimea,** added 
Tolstoy in his talk with Boyer, * I had a grand chance to 
see with my own eyes that this is so." 


Of the causes that led to the war it need onl j be said 
that the rule of the Turks over Christian populations had 
long kept a dangerous sore open in Europe, and the conse- 
quent diplomatic difficulties were complicated by the 
indefiniteness of two lines in the Treaty of Eainardji, 
which Catherine the Great had imposed upon Turkey in 
1774. There was also friction between the Eastern and 
Western Churches, with reference to the custody of the 
Places in Palestine rendered holy by their traditional con- 
nection with the Prince of Peace. Nicholas I, who had 
wellnigh drilled all intelligence out of those near him in 
his Government and in his army, was not accustomed to be 
thwarted. Dimly conscious of the first faint symptoms of 
that growth of Liberalism which a few years later, in the 
early ''sixties, led to sweeping reforms in Russia, he felt 
inclined to demonstrate the beneficence of his rule not by 
allowing changes to be made at home, but by arbitrarily 
inflicting reforms on Turkey. Failing to get his way by 
diplomatic pressure, he rashly proceeded to occupy the 
Danubian Principalities, as a ^ material guarantee ^ of 
Turkey^s compliance with his demands. 

He was opposed by Austria and Prussia as strongly as 
by England and France, and the pressure exerted by the 
four powers sufficed to compel him to withdraw his army 
from Turkish soil. Thereupon the war, which had as yet 
been waged only between Russia and Turkey, might well 
have ended, had not England and France undertaken a 
quite needless invasion of the Crimea : an enterprise in 
which Austria and Prussia refused to join. The end did 
not justify the proceedings, for in spite of success in this 
war, Napoleon the Third's dynasty crumbled to dust 
within twenty years, while within a like period after 
Palmerston's death Lord Salisbury frankly admitted that 
we had * put our money on the wrong horse.' As to 
Nicholas I, his pride was destined to be bitterly mortified 
by the results of an enterprise which not only failed of its 


immediate object, but by its failure actually hastened the 
coming of those reforms in Russia against which he had 
set his face. Even Turkey did not really benefit by being 
allowed to oppress her subject races for a couple of genera- 
tions longer. 

It was the influence of Napoleon III, as Einglake has 
pointed out, that led England to take part in the war. 
Having by treachery and murder made himself Emperor 
of the French, that monarch found himself for a time 
dangerously isolated from the support of people of good 
repute. In consultation with Palmerston, he decided to 
subordinate the traditional Eastern policy of his country 
to that of England if thereby he could succeed in being 
publicly paraded as the friend and ally of Queen Victoria. 
As soon as he had secured an alliance with England, with 
Palmerston'^s aid, and helped by the extraordinary war fever 
which seized the English nation, he quickly forced the 
peacefully disposed Lord Aberdeen along an inclined plane 
which ultimately plunged both nations into a war for 
which no sufficient motive justification or excuse existed. 

Hostilities between Russia and Turkey had begun in 
October 1853, but France and England did not break off^ 
n^otiations with the former power till the end of 
March 1854, the very month in which Tolstoy 
reached Bucharest on his way through Wallachia to join 
the army. 

From there he wrote to his aunt, telling of his journey. 
The roads after he had passed Kherson, and especially after 
he had crossed the frontier, were abominable ; his journey 
lasted nine days ; and he ^ arrived almost ill with fatigue.'* 

A few days later, on 17th March, he wrote of his first 
interview with Gortchakdf : 

♦ Le prince Gortchak6f n'^tait pas ici. Hier il vient 
d'arrivcr et je viens de chez lui. II m*a re9U mieux que je ne 

* Prince Gortchakdf was not here. He arrived yesterday, and I 
have just come from his lodgings. He received me better than I ex- 


croyais — en vrai parent. II m'a embrasse, il m'a engag^ de 
venir diner tous les jours chez lui et il veut me garder aupr^ 
de lui^ mais ce n'est pas encore decide. 

Pardon^ ch^re tante, que je vous 6cris peu — je n'ai pas encore 
la t6te k moi, — cette grande et belle ville, toutes ces presenta- 
tions^ rop6ra italien, le theAtre fran9ais^ les deux jeunes 
Gortchak6f qui sont de tr^ braves gar9ons . . . de sorte que 
je ne suis pas rest6 deux heures chez moi^ et je n'ai pas pens^ 
a roes occupations. 

On S2nd March he adds : ^ I learnt yesterday that I am 
not to remain with the Prince, but am to go to Oltenitza 
to join my battery/ 

In May he wrote : 

* Tandis que vous me croyez expose a tous les dangers de 
la guerre je n'ai pas encore senti la poudre turque^ et je suis 
tr^s tranquillement k Boukarest k me promener, k faire de la 
musique et k manger des glaces. En effet tout ce temps, 
except^ deux semaines que j'ai pass6es k Oltenitza oii j'ai 6t6 
attache a une batterie^ et une semaine que j'ai pass6e en courses 
par la Moldavia, Valachie et Bessarabie par ordre du g^n. 
Serjpoutovsky aupres duquel je suis k present 6y special appoint- 
merit, je suis reste k Boukarest et k vous avouer franchement^ 

pected — quite as a relation. He embraced me, and made me promise 
to dine at his house erery day. He wants to keep me near him, but 
this is not yet decided. 

Forgive me, dear Aunt, for writing but little to you— I have not 
yet collected my wits ; this large and fine town, all these presenta- 
tions, the Italian opera, the French theatre, the two young Gortcha- 
kdfs, who are very fine lads ... so that I have not remained two 
hours at home, and have not thought of my duties. 

* While you are fancying me exposed to all the dangers of war, I 
have not yet smelt Turkish powder, but am very quietly at Bucharest, 
strolling about, making music, and eating ices. In fact, all this time, 
except for two weeks I spent at Oltenitza, where I was attached to a 
battery, and one week I passed making excursions in Moldavia 
Wallachia and Bessarabia by order of General Serzhpoutovsky, on 
whose staff I now am by special appointment^ I have been at Bucha- 


ce genre de vie un peu dissip^, tout k fait oisif et tr^ coQteux 
que je m^ne ici me d6plait infiniment. Auparavant c'6tait le 
service qui m'j retenait, mais k present j'y suis rest^ pendant 
pr^s de trois semaines k cause d'une fi^vre que j'ai attrap6e 
pendant mon voyage, mais dont^ Dieu merci^ je suis pour le 
moment assez r6tabli pour rejoindre dans deux ou trois jours 
mon g6n6ral qui est au camp pr^s de Silistrie. A propos de 
mon g6n6ra\, il a Tair d'etre un tr^s brave homme et parait, 
quoique nous nous connaissons fort peu, 6tre bien dispose k 
mon 6gard. Ce qui est encore fort agr^able est que son 6tat- 
major est compost pour la plupart de gens corome il faut. 

We shall find Tolstoy modifying this opinion, a little 
later on ; but it is worth noting that at this time he was 
fully alive to the superiority of ^ gens comme il fauty and 
that his depreciation of them in later years may have been 
partly a reaction from a previous over-valuation. 

By June 1854 the military and political situation was 
as follows. The Russians had advanced through Moldavia 
and Wallachia to the Danube, had crossed that river, and 
were besieging Silistria. Austria, supporting the other 
great powers, had massed a powerful army on the Turkish 
frontier, and a glance at the map of Europe will show that 
the Russian army, far removed from its base, was in 
imminent danger of being cut off by the Austrians, who 
peremptorily summoned Russia to evacuate the Principal- 
ities, and on 14th June concluded a formal alliance with 
the Porte. These circumstances explain the sudden 

rest ; and to speak frankly, the rather dissipated^ quite idle and very 
expensive kind of life that 1 lead here, displeases me very much. 
Formerly it was the service that kept me here ; but now for three 
weeks I have been kept here by a fever caught during my journey, 
bat from which, thank God, 1 have for the present recovered suffi- 
ciently to be able in two or three days' time to rejoin my General, who 
is in camp near Silistria. Apropos of my General, he appears to be 
a very fine fellow, and though we know each other very slightly, 
seems well disposed toward me. What is also agreeable is that bis 
staff consists for the most part of gentlemen, 



abandonment of the siege of Silistria mentioned in the 
following letter, addressed by Leo Tolstoy to his Aunt 
Tatidna and to his brother Nicholas conjointly; though 
when he wrote it, the causes which produced the result he 
described were a mystery to him. 

* Je vais vous parler done de mes souvenirs de Silistrie. 
J'y ai vu tant de choses int^ressantes, po6tiques at touchantes 
que le temps que j'y ai pa886 ne s'effacera jamais de ma m6moire. 
Notre camp 6tait dispose de Tautre c6t6 du Danube c.k d. sur 
la rive droite sur un terrain tr^s 61eve au milieu de superbes 
jardius, appartenant k Mustafa Pasha — le gouvemear de Silis- 
trie. La vue de cet endroit est non seulement magnifique, 
mais pour nous tous du plus grand int6r6t. Sans parler du 
Danube, de ces lies et de ces rivages^ les uns occup^s par nous, 
les autres par les Turcs, on voyait la ville, la forteresse, les petits 
forts de Silistrie com me sur la main. On entendait lea coups 
de canons, de fusils qui ne cessaient ni jour ni nuit^ et avec 
une lunette d'approche on pouvait distinguer les soldats turcs. 
II est vrai que c'est un drdle de plaisir que de voir de gens 
s'entretuer et cependant tous les soirs et matins je me mettais 
sur ma cart et je restais des heures enti^res k regarder et ce 
n'6tait pas moi le seul qui le faisait. Le spectacle 6tait vrai- 
ment beau, surtout la nuit. Les nuits ordinairement mes 

* I am going to tell you of my recollections of Silistria. I there 
saw so much that was interesting, poetic and touching, that the time 
I passed there will never be effaced from my memory. Our camp was 
on the other side of the Danube, i.e. on the right bank, on very high 
ground amid splendid gardens belonging to Mustafa Pasha^ the 
Governor of Silistria. The view from that place is not only magnifi- 
cent, but of the greatest interest to us all. Not to speak of the 
Danube, its islets and its banks, some occupied by us, others by the 
Turks, one could see the town, the fortress and the little forts of 
Silistria as on the palm of one's hand. One heard the booming of 
cannon and musket-shots unceasingly day and night ; and with a spy- 
glass one could distinguish the Turkish soldiers. It is true it is 
a queer sort of pleasure to see people killing one another, yet every 
evening and every morning I got on to my cart and remained for 
hours at a time, watching : nor was I the only one who did so. The 
sight was really fine, especially at night. At night my soldiers usually 


soldats se mettent aux travaux des tranchees^ et les Turcs se 
jettent sur eux pour les en emp^cher^ alors il fallait voir et 
entendre cette fusillade. La premiere nuit que j'ai pa8s6e au 
camp ce bruit terrible m'a reveille et effraye, je croyais qu'on 
est all6 k I'assaut et j'ai bien vite fait seller mon eheval^ mais 
ceux qui avait deja pass6 quelque temps au camp me dirent que 
je n'avais qu'a me tenir tranquille, que cette canonnade et 
fusillade 6tait une chose ordinaire et qu'on appela en plaisantant, 
' Allah ' ; alors je me suis recouch^^ mais ne pouvant m'endor- 
mir je me suis amus6^ une montre a la main, k compter les coups 
de canon que j'entendais et j'ai compt6 110 explosions dans 
I'espace d'une minute. £t cependant tout ceci n'a eu de pr^ 
Tair aussi efirayant que cela le paratt. La nuit, quand on n'y 
voyait rien, c'6tait k qui brdlerait le plus de poudre et avec ces 
milliers de coups de canons on tuait tout au plus une trentaine 
d'hommes de part et d'autre. 

Ceci done est un spectacle ordinaire que nous avions tons 
les jours et dans lequel, quand on m'envoyait avec des ordres 
dans les tranchdes, je prenais aussi ma part ; mais nous avions 
aussi des spectacles extraordinaires, comme celui de la veille de 
I'assaut quand on a fait sauter une mine de 240 pouds de poudre 
sous un des bastions de Pennemi. Le matin de cette joum6e 

undertake trench- work, and the Turks fling themselves upon them to 
hinder them ; then one should see and hear the fusillade ! The first 
night I passed in camp, this dreadful noise awoke and frightened me : 
I thought an assault had begun. I very soon had my horse saddled ; 
but those who had been already some time in camp told me that I had 
only to keep quiet : that this cannonade and fusillade was an ordinary 
affair, and they jestingly called it ' Allah.' Then I lay down again ; 
but not being able to sleep, I amused myself, watch in hand, counting 
the cannon-shots, and I counted 110 reports in a minute. And yet, 
at close quarters, all this did not look so terrible as might be supposed. 
At night, when nothing was visible, it was a case of who could bum 
most powder, and with all these thousands of cannon-shots at most 
some thirty men were killed on each side. . . . 

This then was an ordinary performance we had every day, and one 
in which I took a share when I was sent to the trenches with orders ; 
but we also had extraordinary performances, such as the one on the eve 
of the attack, when a mine of 240 poods (8600 lbs.) of gunpowder was 
exploded under one of the enemy's bastions. On the morning of that 


le prince avait 6t6 aux tranch^es avec tout son 6tat-niajor 
(comme le g6n6ral aupr^s duquel j'^tais en fait partie, j'y ai 
aussi 6t€) pour faire les dispositions d^finies — vu pour I'assaut 
du lendemain. Le plan, trop long pour que je puisse I'ex- 
pliquer ici, etait si bien fait, tout 6tait si bien prevu que per- 
Sonne ne doutait de la r^ussite. A propos de cela il faut que 
je vous dise encore que je commence k avoir de I'admiration 
pour le prince (au reste il faut en entendre parler parmi les 
officiers et les soldats^ non seulement je n'ai jamais entendu 
dire du mal de lui, mais il est g6n6ralement adore). 

Je I'ai vu au feu pour la premiere fois pendant cette matinee. 
II faut voir cette figure un peu ridicule avec sa grande taille, 
ses mains derri^re le dos, sa casquette en arri^re, ses lunettes 
et sa mani^re de parler comme un dindon. On voit qu'il 6tait 
tellement occupy de la marche g6n6rale des affaires que les 
balles et les boulets n'existaient pas pourlui; il s' expose au 
danger avec tant de simplicite, qu'on dirait qu'il n'en a pas 
I'id^e et qu'involontairement qu'on n'a plus peur de lui que pour 
soi-m6me ; et puis donnant ses ordres avec tant de clart^ et de 
precision et avec cela toujours affable avec chacun. C'est un 

day the Prince had beeu to the trenches with all his staff (and as the 
General I was attached to belongs to it^ I was there too) to make the 
final arrangements for next day's assault The plan — too long for me 
to explain here — was so well arranged, all was so well foreseen, that 
no one doubted its success. Apropos of this I must tell you further 
that I am beginning to feel admiration for the Prince (for that 
matter you should hear how the officers and soldiers speak of him : 
not only have I never heard him spoken ill of, but he is generally 

That morning I saw him under fire for the first time. You should 
see his rather absurd tall figure, his hands behind his back, his cap on 
the back of his head, his spectacles, and his way of speaking like a 
turkey-cock. One could see that he was so preoccupied with the 
general trend of affairs that the balls and bullets did not exist as £sr 
as he was concerned. He exposes himself to danger so simply that 
one would say he was unconscious of it, and involuntarily one fears 
it only for oneself ; [The text here is obscure, and the meaning a 
little doubtful] and then he gives his orders with such clearness and 
precision^ and is at the same time always so affable with everybody. 


grand, cA d. un homme qui s'est vou6 toate sa vie au service de 
sa patrie et pas par Tambition^ mais par le devoir. Je vais vous 
raconter un trait de lui qui se lie k Thistoire de cet assaut que 
j'ai commence k raconter. L'apr^s-diner du meme jour on 
a fait sauter la mine, et pr^s de 600 pieces d'artillerie ont fait 
feu sur le fort qu'on voulait prendre, et on continuait ce feu 
pendant toute la nuit, c'etait un de ces coups d'oeil et une de 
ces 6motion8 qu'on n'oublie jamais. Le soir de nouveau le 
prince, avec tout le tremblement, est alle coucher aux tranch^es 
pour dinger lui-m6me Tassaut qui devait commencer k S heures 
de la nuit m6me. 

Nous 6tions tous Ik et comme toujours a la veille d'une 
bataille nous faisions tous semblant de ne pas plus penser de la 
jonni6e de demain qu'k une journ6e ordinaire et tous, j'en suis 
sdr, au fond du coeur ressentaient un petit serrement de coeur 
et pas m6me un petit mais un grand^ k I'id^e de I'assaut. Comme 
tn sais que le temps qui pr^c^de une affaire est le temps le plus 
d^sagr^able — c'est le seul ou on a le temps d'avoir peur, et la 
peur est un sentiment des plus desagr^bles. Vers le matin, 
plus le moment approchait, plus le sentiment diminuait et vers 
3 heures quand nous attendions tous k voir partir le bouquet de 

He is a great man, i.e, a capable and honest man, as I understand the 
word : one who has dedicated his whole life to the service of his 
country, and not from ambition, but for the sake of duty. I will g^ve 
you a trait of his character connected with the story I had begun to tell 
you of the assault. After dinner that same day, the mine was sprung, 
and nearly 600 guns opened fire on the fort we wished to take, and 
this continued the whole night. It was such a sight and such an 
emotion as one never forgets. That evening the Prince, amid all 
the commotion, went to sleep in the trenches, that he might 
personally direct the assault, which was to begin at 3 o'clock the 
same night. 

We were all there, and as usual on the eve of a battle, we all made 
believe not to think of the morrow more than of any other day, and 
we all, I am sure, at bottom, felt our hearts contract a little (and not 
a little, but a great deal) at the thought of the assault. As you know, 
the time before a fight is the most disagreeable : it is only then that 
one has time to be afraid, and fear is a most disagreeable feeling. 
Towards morning, the nearer the moment came the more the feeling 
diminished, and towards 3 o'clock when we were all expecting to see 


fusees qui 6tait le signal de Tattaque — j'etais si bien dispos6 
que si Ton etait venu me dire que I'assaut n'aurait pas lieu^ cela 
m'aurait fait beaucoup de peine. £t voila que juste une heure 
avant le moment de Tassaut arrive un aide de camp du mar6- 
chal avee Tordre d'6ter le si^ge de Silistrie. Je puis dire sans 
craindre de me tromper que cette nouvelle a 6te re9ue par tous 
— soldats^ officiers et g^neraux — comme un vrai malheur, d'au- 
tant plus qu on savait par les espions^ qui nous venaient tr^ 
sou vent de Silistrie^ et avec lesquels j'avais tr^ sou vent I'occa- 
sion de causer moi-m^me^ on savait que ce fort pris^ — chose 
dont personne ne doutait — Silistrie ne pouvait tenir plus de 
2 ou 3 jours. N'est-ce pas que si cette nouvelle devait faire de 
la peine k quelqu'un ce devait ^tre au prince^ qui pendant toute 
cette campagne ayant fait toute chose pour le mieux^ au beau 
milieu de Inaction vit venir le marechal sur son dos pour g&ter 
les affaires et puis ayant la seule chance de r^parer nos revers 
par cet assaut^ il re9oit le contre ordre du marechal au moment 
de le commencer. Eh bien^ le prince n'a pas eu un moment de 
mauvaise humeur^ lui, qui est si impressionable^ au contraire il a 

a shower of rockets let off, which was the signal for the attack^ 
I was so well inclined for it that I should have been much dis- 
appointed if any one had come to tell me that the attack was not to 
take place. And there ! Just an hour before the time for the attack^ 
an aide-de-camp comes from the Field-Marshal [Paskevitch^ who for 
a time took over the supreme command of the army of the Danube] 
with orders to raise the siege of Silistria ! 1 can say, without fear of 
making a mistake, that this news was received by all, soldiers, officers^ 
and generals^ as a real misfortune, the more so as we knew from the 
spies — who very often came to us from Silistria^ and with whom I very 
often had occasion to speak — that once we had taken this fort (about 
which none of us felt any doubt) Silistria could not have held out for 
more than 2 or 3 days. Is it not true that if this news was calculated 
to pain any one, it must have been the Prince^ who having all through 
this campaign arranged everything for the best, yet saw, in the very 
middle of the action^ the Field-Marshal override him and spoil the 
business.^ Having this one chance to repair our reverses by this 
' assault^ he received counter-orders from the Field-Marshal at the 
moment of commencing ! Well, the Prince was not put out of temper 
for a moment. He who is so impressionable, was, on the contrary. 


6t6 content de pouvoir 6viter cette boucherie, dont il devait 
porter la responsabilit6 et tout le temps de la retraite qu'il 
a dirig6 lui-m^me^ ne voulaut passer qu'avec le dernier des 
soldats^ qui s'est faite avec uu ordre et une exactitude remar- 
quables^ il a et6 plus gai qu'il n'a jamais ete. Ce qui contribuait 
beaacoup k sa bonne huraeur, c'6tait Temigration de pr^ de 
7000 families bulgares^ que nous prenons avec pour le souvenir 
de la f(6rocit6 des Turcs — f6rocit6 k laquelle malgr6 mon in- 
credulite, j'ai et6 oblige de croire. Dhs que nous avons quitt6 
des diff6rent8 villages bulgares que nous occupions, les Turcs y 
sont revenus et excepte les femmes assez jeunes pour un harem^ 
ils ont fait main basse sur tout ce qu'il y avait. II y a un vil- 
lage dans lequel je suis all6 du camp pour y prendre du lait 
et des fruits qui a 6t^ extermin^ de la sorte. Alors d^s que le 
prince avait fait savoir aux Bulgares que ceux qui voulaient 
pouvaient avec Tarm^e passer le Danube et devenir sujets 
rosses^ tout le pays se soul^ve et tous avec leurs femmes^ en- 
fants, chevaux, betails arrivent au pont^ — mais comme il 6tait 
impossible de les prendre tous^ le prince a ^te oblig6 de refuser 
k ceux qui sont venus les demiers et il fallait voir comme cela 

pleased to be able to avoid that butchery^ the responsibility for which 
he would have had to bear ; and during the whole time of the retreat 
— which he directed personally, not wishing to cross (the Danube) 
before the last of the soldiers — which took place with remarkable 
order and exactitude, he was gayer than he has ever been. What 
eontributed much to his good humour^ was the emigration of nearly 
7000 Bulgarian families^ whom we took with us as a reminder of the 
ferocity of the Turks : a ferocity in which^ in spite of my incredulity, 
I was obliged to believe. As soon as we quitted the different Bul- 
garian villages we had occupied^ the Turks returned to them^ and 
except women young enough for a harem^ they made a clean sweep of 
all that was in them. There was one village to which I went from the 
camp for milk and fruity which had been exterminated in this way. 
So, as soon as the Prince let the Bulgarians know that those who 
wished to, could cross the Danube with our army and could become 
Russian subjects, the whole country rose, and with their wives, 
children, horses and cattle, came to the bridge : but as it was impos- 
sible to take them all, the Prince was obliged to refuse the last 
arrivals, and you should have seen how it grieved him to do so. He 


le chagrinait. II recevait toutes les deputations qui yenaient 
de ces pauvres gens, il causait avec chacun d'eux^ tAchait de 
leur expliquer Pimpo8sibilit6 de la chose^ leur proposait de passer 
sans leurs chariots et leur b^tail et en se chargeant de leurs 
moyens de subsistence jusqu'^ ce qu'ils arrivassent en Russie, 
payant de sa propre bourse des vaisseaux particuliers pour les 
transporter^ en un mot faisant tout son possible pour faire 
du bien a ces gens. 

Oui^ ch^re tante, je voudrais bien que votre proph^tie se 
realise. La chose que j 'arabitionne le plus^ est d'6tre I'aide 
de camp d'un homme comme lui que j'aime et que j'estime du 
plus profond de mon coeur. Adieu^ ch^re et bonne tante; 
je baise vos mains. 

The army retired to Bucharest, and here, at an officers'* 
ball, Tolstoy seized an opportunity to beg Gortchakdf to 
have him transferred to where service would be most 

The retreat from Silistria took place at the end of 
June, and on 2nd August we find Tolstoy starting for 
Russia. On the journey he fell ill and had to lie up in 
hospital. On 13th November in Kishinef he renewed 
his application for an appointment in the Crimea, and was 
ordered to Sevastopol, which he reached on the 20th of 
that month.^ 

received all the deputations which came from these poor folk^ and 
spoke with them all : trying to explain the impossibility of the 
matter^ offering to let them cross without their carts and cattle, 
charging himself with their support till they could reach Russia, and 
out of his own purse paying for private ships to transport them ; in a 
word, doing his very best for the welfare of these people. 

Yes, dear Aunt, I should much like your prophecy to come true. 
What I desire most is to be aide-de-camp to such a man as he, whom 
I love and esteem from the bottom of my heart. Adieu, dear and 
kind Aunt. I kiss your hands. 

^ In this chapter the dates, when possible, are given new style (i2 days 
later than the Russian style), in order that they may tally with English 
accounts of the Crimean war. 


The situation there, at this time, was the following. 
The Allies had landed in the Crimea to the north of 
Sevastopol on 14th September, and had defeated 
the Russian army under Menshikof on the 20th 
at Ahna. Instead of marching straight into the town, 
which was almost undefended, they had then gone round 
and encamped on the south side, where they remained 
inactive till 17th October, by which time Todleben, an 
engineer of rare genius, had thrown up earthworks and 
mounted guns (many of them taken from the Russian ships 
Menshikof sank at the entrance to the Roadstead). 
Menshikof himself had practically abandoned the town, 
withdrawing the bulk of his army northward ; but the 
situation was saved by the patriotism of just that section 
of the Russian forces which had been least exposed to the 
deadening influence of Nicholas the Firsts militarism, — 
namely by the officers and men of the fleet. Inspired by 
the example of the heroic Admiral Komilof (who lost 
his life during the siege) they rallied to the defence with 
a courageous devotion seldom paralleled. Their example 
awoke enthusiasm throughout Russia and compelled 
Menshikof to supply reinforcements, which enabled the 
town to hold out for eleven months, in spite of the great 
superiority of the Allies in rifles, artillery and the 
modem equipments of war generally. 

Tolstoy reached Sevastopol when the defence was 
already fully organised, and when (in spite of the repulse 
experienced by the Russians at Inkerman) the garrison 
had gained confidence in their powers of resistance, and 
had settled down to a dogged defence. 

Of the hospitals, in which the wounded saw one 
another'*s limbs amputated while waiting their own turn ; 
of the stafi* officers, who managed to amuse themselves 
pretty well during the siege ; of the commissariat officers, 
flourishing amid the general havoc ; as well as of the line- 
and non-commissioned officers and privates, upon whom 


the greatest hardships fell, Tolstoy gives vivid glimpses in 
the Sketches he wrote during the siege. 

A fortnight after his arrival he writes, from somewhere 
outside the town, to his brother Sergius, apologising for 
not having sent him a letter sooner, and adds : 

So much have I learnt^ experienced^ and felt this year that I 
positively do not know what to begin to describe, nor how to 
describe it as I wish to. . . . Silistria is now ancient history, and 
we have Sevastopol, of which I suppose you all read with beating 
hearts, and where I was four days ago. Well, how can I tell 
you all I saw there, and where I went and what I did, and 
what the prisoners and wounded French and English say ; and 
whether it hurts them and hurts very much^ and what heroes our 
enemies are, especially the English } I will tell all that later 
at Yisnaya or at Pirog6vo ; and you will learn much of it from 
me through the press. How this will happen, I will explain 
later ; but now let me give you an idea of the position of affairs 
in Sevastopol. The town is besieged from one side, the south, 
where we had no fortifications when the enemy approached it. 
Now we have on that side more than 500 heavy guns, and 
several lines of earthworks, positively impregnable. I spent 
a week in the fortress, and to the last day used to lose my way 
among that labyrinth of batteries, as in a wood. More than 
three weeks ago the enemy advanced his trenches at one place 
to within 200 yards, but gets no further. When he makes the 
smallest advance he is overwhelmed with a hailstorm of shot 
and shell. 

The spirit of the army is beyond all description. In the 
times of ancient Greece there was not such heroism. Kornilof, 
making the round of the troops, instead of greeting them with, 
' Good health to you, lads ! ' says : ^ If you have to die, lads, will 
you die } ' and the troops shout, ' We '11 die. Your Excellency ! 
Hurrah ! ' and they do not say it for effect. On every face one 
saw that it was not jest but earnest; and 22,000 men have 
already fulfilled the promise. 

' This must refer to some family joke, as it occurs in other letters home, 
apropos of people who were killed. 


A wounded soldier^ almost dyings told me they captured 
the 24th French Battery but were not reinforced ; and he wept 
aloud. A Company of Marines nearly mutinied because they 
were to be withdrawn from batteries in which they bad been 
exposed to shell-fire for thirty days. The soldiers extract the 
fuses from the shells. Women carry water to the bastions for 
the soldiers. Many are killed and wounded. The priests 
with their crosses go to the bastions and read prayers under 
fire. In one brigade^ the 24th, more than l60 wounded men 
would not leave the front. It is a wonderful time! Now^ 
however, after the 24th, we have quieted down ; it has become 
splendid in Sevastopol. The enemy hardly fires, and all are 
convinced that he will not take the town ; and it is really im- 
possible. ... I have not yet succeeded in being in action even 
once ; but thank God that I have seen these people and live 
in this glorious time. The bombardment of the 5th [17 
October, n.s.] remains the most brilliant and glorious feat not 
only in the history of Russia, but in the history of the world. 
More than 1 500 cannon were in action for two days against the 
town, and not only did not cause it to capitulate, but did not 
silence one two-hundredth part of our batteries. Though, I 
suppose, this campaign is unfavourably regarded in Russia, our 
descendants will place it above all others ; do not forget that 
we, with equal or even inferior forces, and armed only with 
bayonets, and with the worst troops in the Russian army (such 
as the 6th corps) are fighting a more numerous enemy aided by 
a fleet, armed with 3000 cannon, excellently supplied with rifles 
and with their best troops. I do not even mention the 
superiority of their Generals. 

Only our army could hold its ground and conquer (we shall 
yet conquer, of that I am convinced) under such circumstances. 
You should see the French and English prisoners (especially 
the latter) : they are each one better than the other — morally 
and physically fine fellows. The Cossacks say it is even a pity 
to cut them down, and alongside of them you should see 
some Chasseurs or others of ours : small, lousy, and shrivelled 

Now I will tell you how you will get printed news from me of 
the deeds of these lousy and shrivelled heroes. In our artillery 


staffs consisting^ as I think I wrote you^ of very good and 
worthy men, a project has been started for publishing a military 
newspaper, in order, to maintain a good spirit in the army — a 
cheap paper (at Rs. 3) and popularly written, so that the 
soldiers may read it We have drawn up a plan and submitted 
it to the Prince. He likes the idea very much, and has 
submitted the project and a specimen sheet which we also 
wrote, for the Emperor's sanction. 1 and Stolypin^ are 
advancing the money for the publication. I have been chosen 
joint editor with a Mr. Konstantinof, who published The 
Caucasus, a man experienced in such work. The paper will 
publish descriptions of the battles (but not such dry and 
mendacious ones as other papers) courageous deeds, biographies, 
and obituaries of good men, especially the unknown ; military 
stories, soldiers' songs, and popular articles on engineering, 
artillery, etc. This plan pleases me very much: in the first 
place, I like the work ; and secondly, I hope the paper will be 
useful and not quite bad. It is as yet merely a project, until 
we know the Emperor's reply, about which I confess I have 
my fears. In the specimen sheet sent to Petersburg, we 
rashly inserted two articles, one by me and one by Rost6vtsef, 
not quite orthodox. For this business I want Rs. 1500, which 
I have asked Valerydn to send me. 

I, thank God, am well, and live happily and pleasantly since 
I returned from Turkey. In general, my army service divides 
up into two periods : beyond the frontier — horrid : I was ill, 
poor, and lonely. This side of the frontier — I am well and 
have good friends, though I am still poor : money simply runs 

As to writing, I do not write ; but, as Aunty teases me by 
saying, ' I test myself.' One thing disquiets me : this is the 
fourth year I live without female society ; and I may become 
quite coarse and unsuited for family life, which I so enjoy. 

A few days later his battery was moved to Simferdpol, 
a town lying to the north of Sevastopol, beyond the sphere 
of actual fighting. 

* Falhcr of the present (1908) Premier of Russia. 


On 6th January (o.s.) he wrote to his Aunt: 1865 

* On ne se bat plus en rase campagne^ k cause de I'hiver 
qui est extraordinairement rigoureux, surtout k present ; mais le 
si^ge dure toujours. . . . J'avais parl6 je crois d'une occupation 
que j'avais en vue et qui me souriait beaucoup ; k present que 
la chose est d6cid6e, je puis le dire. J'avais I'id^e de fonder 
on journal militaire. Ce projet auquel j'ai travaill6 avec le 
concours de beaucoup de gens tr^s distingu^s fut approuv6 par 
le prince et envoy^ k la decision de sa Majest6^ mais I'empereur 

Cette ddconfiture^ je vous I'avoue, m'a fait une peine infinie 
et a beaucoup chang6 mes plans. Si Dieu veut que la cam- 
pagne de Crim6e finisse bien et si je ne re^ois pas une place 
dont je sois content^ et qu'il n'y ait pas de guerre en Russie, 
je quitterai I'arm^e pour aller k P^tersbourg k I'acad^mie 
militaire. Ce plan m'est venu, 1" parce que je voudrais ne pas 
abandonner la litt^rature dont il m'est impossible de m'occuper 
dans cette vie de camp, et 2* parce qu'il me paraft que je 
commence k devenir ambitieux^ pas ambitieuz, mais je voudrais 
faire du bien et pour le faire il faut 6tre plus qu'un Sub-Lieu- 
tenant; 3" parce que je vous verrai tous et tous mes amis. 

* There is no more fighting in the open country on account of the 
winter^ which is extraordinarily rigorous, particularly just now ; hut 
the siege still goes on. ... I think I have mentioned an occupation 
I had in view, which promised very well — as I may say, now that it 
18 settled. I had the idea of founding a military newspaper. This 
project, at which I worked with the co-operation of many very dis- 
tinguished men, was approved hy the Prince and submitted to His 
Majesty for his consent, but he has refused. 

This disappointment has, I confess, distressed me greatly, and has 
much altered my plans. If God wills that the Crimean campaign 
should end well, and if I do not receive an appointment that satisfies 
me, and if there is no war in Russia, I shall leave the army and go 
to Petersburg to the Military Academy. I have formed this plan, 
(1) because I do not want to abandon literature, at which it is im- 
possible to work amid this camp life ; (2) because it seems to me that 
I am becoming ambitious: not ambitious, but I want to do some 
good, and to do it one must be something more than a Sub-Lieu- 
tenant, and (3) because 1 shall see you all and all my friends. 


In May he wrote again to his brother : 

From Kishin^f on 1st November (o.s.), I petitioned to be 
sent to the Crimea, partly in order to see this war, and partly 
to break away from Serzhpout6vsky's staff, which I did not like, 
but most of all from patriotism, of which at that time, 1 confess, 
I had a bad attack. I did not ask for any special appointment, 
but left it to those in authority to dispose of my fate. In the 
Crimea I was appointed to a battery in Sevastopol itself, where 
I passed a month very pleasantly amid simple, good companions, 
who are specially good in time of real war and danger. In 
December our battery was removed to Simfer6pol, and there I 
spent 6 weeks in a squire's comfortable house, riding into Sim- 
fer6pol to dance and play the piano with young ladies, and in 
hunting wild goats on the Tchatyrdag [the highest point of the 
chain of mountains running across the southern part of the 
Crimea] in company with officials. In January there was a 
fresh shuffling of officers, and I was removed to a battery 
encamped on the banks of the Belb6k, 7 miles from Sevasto- 
pol. There I got into hot water : the nastiest set of officers 
in the battery ; a Commander who, though good-hearted, was 
violent and coarse ; no comforts, and it was cold in the earth 
huts. Not a single book, nor a single man with whom one 
could talk; and there I received the Rs. 1500 [=about£l80 
at that time] for the newspaper, sanction for which had already 
been refused ; and there I lost Rs. 2500, and thereby proved to 
all the world that I am still an empty fellow, and though the 
previous circumstances may be taken into account in mitiga- 
tion, the case is still a very, very bad one. In March it became 
warmer, and a good fellow, an excellent man, Brcn^vsky, joined 
the battery. I began to recover myself; and on 1 April, at 
the very time of the bombardment, the battery was moved to 
Sevastopol, and I quite recovered myself. There, till 15 May 
(o.s.) I was in serious danger, i.e. for four days at a time, at 
intervals of eight days, I was in charge of a battery in the 
4th Bastion ; but it was spring and the weather was excellent, 
there was abundance of impressions and of people, all the com- 
forts of life, and we formed a capital circle of well-bred fellows ; 
so that those six weeks will remain among my pleasantest re- 


collections. On 1 5 May Gortchak6f^ or the Commander of the 
ArtiUery, took it into his head to entrust me with the formation 
and command of a mountain platoon at Belb6k^ 14 miles from 
Sevastopol^ Mdth which arrangement I am up to the present 
extremely well satisfied in many respects. 

The transfer of Tolstoy from Sevastopol to Belbek was 
not, as he supposed when he wrote this letter, a whim of 
Gortchakof 8, or of the Commander of the Artillery, but a 
result of his having written the first of his three sketches 
of the siege of Sevastopol : Sevastopol in December, The 
article, though not published in the Contemporary till 
June, had been read by the Emperor Alexander II [Nicholas 
had died 2nd March, n.s.] in proof, and had caused 
him to give instructions to ^take care of the life of 
that young man,^ with the result that Tolstoy was 
removed from Sevastopol. The Dowager Empress Alex- 
andra Fddorovna also read the story and, it is said, wept 
over it. 

It was, perhaps, at this time (though I am not sure of 
the date) that Tolstoy found himself obliged to consent to 
the sale of the large wooden house in which he had been 
bom, for the wretched price of 5000 ^assignation^ roubles 
(about d6^170). The house was taken to pieces, and 
removed to the estate of the purchaser, where it still stands, 
though not now in use. 

Apropos of the above letter it should be mentioned that 
the Fourth Bastion was the one English writers call * the 
Flagstaff Bastion.** It formed the southernmost point of 
the fortifications, as a glance at the accompanying map will 
show, and it was for a long time the point exposed to the 
fiercest fire. 

Throughout the siege Tolstoy was accompanied by 
Alexis, one of the four serfs presented to the young 
Tolstoys when they entered the University. This man 
(who figures in more than one of Tolstoy'^s works under 



the name of Aly<$sha) brought him hU rations to the 
bastion, a duty involving considerable danger. What the 

bastions were like in the first months of the siege, we learn 
from the following passages in the first part of Sevastopol : 
. You want to get quickly to the bastions, especially to 


that Fourth Bastion about which you have been told so many 
and such different tales. When any one says, ^ I am going to the 
Fourth Bastion/ a slight agitation or a too marked indifference is 
alwajTS noticeable in him; if men are joking they say, 'You 
should be sent to the Fourth Bastion.' When you meet some 
one carried on a stretcher, and ask, ' Where from ? ' the answer 
usually is, * From the Fourth Bastion.' . . . 

... Beyond this barricade the houses on both sides of the 
street are unoccupied : there are no signboards, the doors are 
boarded up, the windows smashed ; here a comer of the walls 
is knocked down, and there a roof is broken in. The buildings 
look like old veterans who have borne much sorrow and priva- 
tion ; they even seem to gaze proudly and somewhat contemp- 
tuously at you. On the road you stumble over cannon-balls 
that lie about, and into holes full of water, made in the stony 
ground by bombs. You meet and overtake detachments of 
soldiers, Cossacks, officers, and occasionally a woman or a child 
—only it will not be a woman wearing a bonnet, but a sailor's 
wife wearing an old cloak and soldier's boots. Farther along 
the same street, after you have descended a little slope, you 
will notice that there are now no houses, but only ruined walls 
in strange heaps of bricks, boards, clay and beams, and before 
you, up a steep hill, you see a black untidy space cut up by 
ditches. This space you are approaching is the Fourth Bastion. 
. . . Here you will meet still fewer people and no women at 
all, the soldiers walk briskly by, traces of blood may be seen 
on the road, and you are sure to meet four soldiers carrying a 
stretcher, and on the stretcher probably a pale, yellow face and 
a blood-stained overcoat. . . . 

The whiz of cannon-ball or bomb near by, impresses you 
unpleasantly as you ascend the hill, and you at once under- 
stand the meaning of the sounds very differently from when 
they reached you in the town. . . . You have hardly gone a 
little way up, when bullets begin to whiz past you right and 
left, and you will perhaps consider whether you had not better 
walk inside the trench which runs parallel to the road ; but the 
trench is full of such yellow, liquid, stinking mud, more than 
knee deep, that you are sure to choose the road, especially as 
everybody keeps to the road. After walking a couple of hundred 



yards^ you come to a muddy place much cut up, surrounded by 
gabions, cellars, platforms, and dug-outs, and on which large 
cast-iron cannon are mounted, and cannon-balls lie piled in 
orderly heaps. All seems placed without any aim, connection, 
or order. Here a group of sailors are sitting in the battery ; 
here, in the middle of the open space, half sunk in mud, lies a 
shattered cannon ; and there a foot-soldier is crossing the 
battery, drawing his feet with diflSculty out of the sticky mud. 
Everywhere, on all sides and all about, you see bomb-frag- 
ments, unexploded bombs, cannon-balls, and various traces of 
an encampment, all sunk in the liquid, sticky mud. You think 
you hear the thud of a cannon-ball not far off, and you seem to 
hear the different sounds of bullets all around — some humming 
like bees, some whistling, and some rapidly flying past with a 
shrill screech like the string of some instrument. You hear the 
awful boom of a shot which sends a shock all through you, and 
seems most dreadful. 

* So this is it, the Fourth Bastion ! This is that terrible, 
truly dreadful spot ! ' So you think, experiencing a slight feel- 
ing of pride and a strong feeling of suppressed fear. But you 
are mistaken ; this is still not the Fourth Bastion. This is 
only the Yaz6novsky Redoubt — comparatively a very safe and 
not at all dreadful place. To get to the Fourth Bastion you 
must turn to the right, along that narrow trench, where a foot- 
soldier, stooping down, has just passed. In this trench you 
may again meet men with stretchers, and perhaps a sailor or a 
soldier with spades. You will see the mouths of mines, dug- 
outs into which only two men can crawl, and there you will see 
the Cossacks of the Black Sea Battalions, changing their boots, 
eating, smoking their pipes, and, in short, living. And you 
will see again the same stinking mud, the traces of camp life, 
and cast-iron refuse of every shape and form. When you have 
gone some three hundred steps more, you come out at another 
battery — a flat space with many holes, surrounded with gabions 
filled with earth, and cannons on platforms, and the whole 
walled in with earthworks. Here you will perhaps see four or 
Ave soldiers playing cards under shelter of the breastworks ; 
and a naval officer, noticing that you are a stranger and inquisi- 
tive, is pleased to show you his 'household' and everything 


that can interest you. . . . He will tell you (but only if you 
ask) about the bombardment on the 5th of October ; will tell 
you how only one gun in his battery remained usable and only 
eight gunners were left of the whole crew^ and how^ all the 
same, next morning, the 6th^ he fired all his guns. He will 
tell you how a bomb dropped into one of the dug-outs and 
knocked over eleven sailors; he will show you from an em- 
brasure the enemy's batteries and trenches^ which are here not 
more than seventy-five to eighty-five yards distant. I am afraid, 
though, that when you lean out of the embrasure to have a 
look at the enemy, you will, under the influence of the whizzing 
bullets, not see anything ; but if you do see anything, you will 
be much surprised to find that this whitish stone wall which is 
no near you, and from which puffs of white smoke keep burst- 
ing — that this white wall is the enemy : is him, as the soldiers 
and sailors say. 

It is even very likely that the naval officer, from vanity, or 
merely for a little recreation, will wish to show you some firing. 
'Call the gunner and crew to the cannon' ; and fourteen sailors 
— clattering their hob-nailed boots on the platform, one putting 
his pipe in his pocket, another still chewing a rusk — quickly 
and cheerfully man the gun and begin loading. 

Suddenly the most fearful roar strikes not only your ears 
but your whole being, and makes you shudder all over. It is 
followed by the whistle of the departing ball, and a thick cloud 
of powder-smoke envelops you, the platform, and the moving 
black figures of the sailors. You will hear various comments 
by the sailors concerning this shot of ours, and you will notice 
their animation, the evidences of a feeling which you had not 
perhaps expected : the feeling of animosity and thirst for 
vengeance which lies hidden in each man's soul. You will 
hear joyful exclamations : ' It 's gone right into the embrasure ! 
It's killed two, I think. . . . There, they're carrying them 
off ! ' ' And now he 's riled, and will send one this way,' some 
one remarks ; and really, soon after, you will see before you a 
flash and some smoke ; the sentinel standing on the breastwork 
will call out * Ca-n-non,' and then a ball will whiz past you and 
squash into the earth, throwing out a circle of stones and mud. 
The commander of the battery will be irritated by this shot. 


and will give orders to fire another and another cannon^ the 
enemy will reply in like manner^ and you will experience inter- 
esting sensations and see interesting sights. The sentinel will 
again call ' Cannon ! ' and you will have the same sound and 
shock, and the mud will be splashed round as before. Or he 
will call out ' Mortar ! ' and you will hear the regular and rather 
pleasant whistle — which it is difficult to connect with the 
thought of an3rthing dreadful ~-of a bomb ; you will hear this 
whistle coming nearer and faster towards you, then you will 
see a black ball, feel the shock as it strikes the ground, and 
will hear the ringing eicplosion. The bomb will fly apart into 
whizzing and shrieking fragments, stones will rattle into the 
air, and you will be bespattered with mud. 

At these sounds you will experience a strange feeling of 
mingled pleasure and fear. At the moment you know the shot 
is flying towards you, you are sure to imagine that this shot will 
kill you, but a feeling of pride will support you and no one will 
know of the knife that is cutting your heart. But when the 
shot has flown past and has not hit you, you revive, and, though 
only for a moment, a glad, inexpressibly joyous feeling seizes 
you, so that you feel some peculiar delight in the danger — in 
this game of life and death — and wish that bombs and balls 
would fall nearer and nearer to you. 

But again the sentinel, in his loud, thick voice, shouts 
* Mortar ! ' again a whistle, a fall, an explosion ; and mingled 
with the last you are startled by the groans of a man. You 
approach the wounded man just as the stretchers are brought. 
Covered with blood and dirt he presents a strange, not human, 
appearance. Part of the sailor's breast has been torn away. . . . 

'That's the way with seven or eight every day,' the naval 
officer remarks to you, answering the look of horror on your 
face, and he yawns as he rolls another yellow cigarette. 

As the siege progressed, things became worse, and in 
the last part of Sevastopol Tolstoy, after telling how one 
of the characters felt satisfied with himself, continues : 

This feeling, however, was quickly shaken by a sight he came 
upon in the twilight while looking for the Commander of the 


bastion. Four sailors stood by the breastwork holding by its 
arms and legs the bloody corpse of a man without boots or coat, 
swinging it before heaving it over. (It was found impossible in 
some parts to clear away the corpses from the bastions, and 
they were, therefore, thrown out into the ditch, so as not to 
be in the way at the batteries.) VohSdya felt stunned for a 
moment when he saw the body hump on the top of the breast- 
work and then roll down into the ditch, but luckily for him 
the Commander of the bastion met him just then and gave him 
his orders, as well as a guide to show him the way to the 
battery and to the bomb-proof assigned to his men. We will 
not speak of all the dangers and disenchant ments our hero 
lived through that evening ; how — instead of the firing he was 
used to, amid conditions of perfect exactitude and order which 
he had expected to meet with here also, — he found two injured 
mortars, one with its mouth battered in by a ball, the other 
standing on the splinters of its shattered platform; how he 
could not get workmen to mend the platform till the morning ; 
how not a single charge was of the weight specified in the 
Handbook ; how two of the men under him were wounded, 
and how he was twenty times within a hair's-breadth of death. 
Fortunately a gigantic gunner, a seaman who had served with 
the mortars since the commencement of the siege, had been 
appointed to assist Volodya, and convinced him of the possi- 
bility of using the mortars. By the light of a lantern, this 
gunner showed him all over the battery as he might have 
shown him over his own kitchen-garden, and undertook to have 
everything right by the morning. The bomb-proof to which 
his guide led him was an oblong hole dug in the rocky ground, 
25 cubic yards in size and covered with oak beams nearly 2| 
feet thick. He and all his soldiers installed themselves in it. 

It was during one of his sojourns in the Fourth Bastion^ 
that Tolstoy noted down in his Diary the following 
prayer : 

Lord, I thank Thee for Thy continual protection. How 
surely Thou leadest me to what is good. What an insignificant 
creature should I be, if Thou abandoned me ! Leave me not. 


Lord ; give me what is necessary, not for the satisfaction of my 
poor aspirations, but that I may attain to the eternal, vast, un- 
known aim of existence, which lies beyond my ken. 

It was due to Tolstoy's own choice that he was exposed 
to the rough life of the bastion, for Prince Gortchakdf, at 
whose house he was a constant visitor, had offered him an 
appointment on his staff. This offer, which at Silistria he 
had so ardently desired, Tolstoy declined, having come to 
the conclusion, subsequently expressed in his writings, that 
the influence exercised by the staff on the conduct of a w€ur 
is always pernicious ! This opinion not only influenced his 
conduct, and expressed itself in his novels, but fitted into a 
general view of life he ultimately arrived at, a view the 
consequences of which must be dealt with in the sequel to 
this work. For the moment, let it suffice to mention that 
whereas he shows a keen appreciation of Admiral Eomilofs 
achievement in rousing the spirit of the gsurrison, he nowhere 
praises Todleben'^s achievement in organising the defence 
of the town and improvising that * labyrinth of batteries ' 
in which Tolstoy used constantly to lose his way. He 
says, for instance : 

Now you have seen the defenders of Sevastopol. . . . The 
principal, joyous thought you have brought away is a conviction 
of the strength of the Russian people ; and this conviction you 
gained, not by looking at all these traverses, breastworks, 
cunningly interlaced trenches, mines and cannon, one on top 
of another, of which you could make nothing; but from 
the eyes, words and actions — in short, from seeing what is called 
the ' spirit ' of the defenders of Sevastopol. 

To everything a man can do off his own bat and by his 
own effort, Tolstoy is keenly alive and sympathetic; but 
when it comes to a complex, co-ordinated plan, involving 
the subordination of many parts to one whole, he is 
suspicious or even hostile. Had he remained a subordinate 
officer, or even a novelist, it would not have been specially 


necessary to draw attention to this peculiarity ; but that 
we may understand his later teachings, it is important to 
note all the roots of feeling from which they grew, and 
this one among the rest. 

To get on however with our tale. One evening, while 
Tolstoy was sitting with the adjutants of Count Osten- 
S^en, Commander of the Garrison, Prince S. S. Ourousof, 
a brave officer and first-rate chess player (he took part in 
the International Chess Tournament of 1862, in London) 
and a friend of Tolstoy's, entered the room and wished to 
speak to the General. An adjutant took him to Osten- 
Sdken's room, and ten minutes later Ourousof passed out 
again, looking very glum. After he had gone, the adjutant 
explained that Ourousof had come to suggest that a chal- 
lenge should be sent to the English to play a game of 
chess for the foremost trench in front of the Fifth Bastion : 
a trench that had changed hands several times and had 
already cost some hundreds of lives. Osten-Sdken had 
naturally refused to issue the challenge. 

On 16th August Tolstoy took part in the battle of the 
Tch^maya (Black River) in which the Sardinian contingent, 
which had arrived in May to reinforce the Allies, much dis- 
tinguished itself. This last attempt to relieve Sevastopol 
failed, as its forerunners had done. Three days later 
Tolstoy wrote to his brother saying that he had not been 
hurt, and that ^ I did nothing, as my mountain artillery 
was not called on to fire.'' 

The end of the siege was now approaching, and on 8th 
September Tolstoy, having volunteered for service in Sevasto- 
pol, reached the Star Fort on the North Side of the Road- 
stead just in time to witness the capture of the Maldhof by 
the French, as he has described in Sevastopol in August} 

On the North Side of the Roadstead^ at the Star Fort^ near 
noon^ two sailors stood on the 'telegraph' mound; one of 

^ The 8M Septembtr, new style, was 24/^ August, old style. 


them, an officer, was looking at Sevastopol through the fixed 
telescope. Another officer, accompanied by a Cossack, kad 
just ridden up to join him at the big Signal-post. . . . Along 
the whole line of fortifications, but especially on the high 
ground on the left side, appeared, several at a time, with 
lightnings that at times flashed bright even in the noonday 
sun, puffs of thick, dense, white smoke, that grew, taking 
various shapes and appearing darker against the sky. These 
clouds, showing now here now there, appeared on the hills, 
on the enemy's batteries, in the town, and high up in the sky. 
The reports of explosions never ceased, but rolled together and 
rent the air. 

Towards noon the puffs appeared more and more rarely, and 
the air vibrated less with the booming. 

' I say, the Second Bastion does not reply at all now ! ' said 
the officer on horseback; ^it is quite knocked to pieces. 

' Yes, and the MaUhof, too, sends hardly one shot in reply to 
three of theirs,' said he who was looking through the telescope. 
' Their silence provokes me ! They are shooting straight into 
the Komilof Battery, and it does not reply.' 

'But look there! I told you that they always cease the 
bombardment about noon. It 's tfie same to-day. Come, let 's 
go to lunch; they'll be waiting for us already. What's the 
good of looking ? ' 

' Wait a bit ! ' answered the one who had possession of the 
telescope, looking very eagerly towards Sevastopol. 

'What is it? What?' 

'A movement in the entrenchments, thick columns ad- 

' Yes ! They can be seen even without a glass, marching in 
columns. The alarm must be given,' said the seaman. 

' Look ! look ! They 've left the trenches ! ' 

And, really, with the naked eye one could see what looked 
like dark spots moving down the hill from the French batteries 
across the valley to the bastions. In front of these spots dark 
stripes were already visibly approaching our line. On the 
bastions white cloudlets burst in succession as if chasing one 
another. The wind brought a sound of rapid small-arm firing. 


like the beating of rain against a window. The dark stripes 
were moving in the midst of the smoke and came nearer and 
nearer. The sounds of firings growing stronger and stronger, 
mingled in a prolonged, rumbling peal. Puffs of smoke rose 
more and more often, spread rapidly along the line, and at last 
formed one lilac cloud (dotted here and there with little faint 
lights and black spots) which kept curling and uncurling ; and 
all the sounds blent into one tremendous clatter. 

' An assault ! ' said the naval officer, turning pale and letting 
the seaman look through the telescope. 

GMsacks galloped along the road, some officers rode by, the 
Commander-in-Chief passed in a carriage with his suite. Every 
face showed painful excitement and expectation. 

' It 's impossible they can have taken it,' said the mounted 

* By God, a standard ! . . . Liook ! look ! ' said the other, 
panting, and he walked away from the telescope : ' A French 
standard on the Maldhof ! ' 

The point from which the officer in the story^ and 
Tolstoy himself in reality, watched the assault through a 
telescope is the spot marked ^a"* on the map on page 112. 

The loss of the Maldhorrendered the further defence of 
the town impossible, and the following night the Russians 
blew up and destroyed such munitions of war as they could 
not remove from the bastions. Tolstoy was deputed to 
clear the Fifth and Sixth Bastions before they were aban- 
doned to the Allies. When telling me this he added, 
*The non-commissioned officers could have done the work 
just as well without me.'' While the destruction was 
proceeding, the Russian forces crossed the Roadstead by 
a pontoon bridge which had been constructed during the 
siege. The town south of the Roadstead was abcuidoned, 
and the defenders established themselves on the North Side, 
where they remained till peace was concluded in February 

After the retreat, Tolstoy was given the task of collating 
the twenty or more reports of the action from the Artillery 


Commanders. This experience of how war is recorded 
produced in him that supreme contempt for detailed 
military histories which he so often expressed in later years. 
He says : 

I regret that I did not keep a copy of those reports. They 
were an excellent example of that naXve^ inevitable kind of 
mihtary falsehood, out of which descriptions are compiled. I 
think many of those comrades of mine who drew up those 
reports, will laugh on reading these lines, remembering how, 
by order of their Commander, they wrote what they could 
not know. 

Carrying among other despatches the report he had 
himself compiled^ Tolstoy was sent as Courier to Peters- 
burg ; and this terminated his personal experience of war. 
He was still only Sub-Lieutenant, his hopes of promotion 
had come to nothing in consequence of a suspicion that he 
was the author of some soldiers' songs which were sung 
throughout the army at this time. No translation can do 
justice to these slangy, topical satires ; but that the reader 
may have some idea of them, my wife has put into English 
the following stanzas : 

In September, the eighth day,^ 
From the French we ran away, 

For our Faith and Tsar ! 

For our Faith and Tsar ! 

Admiral Alexander,^ he 
Sank our vessels in the sea 

In the waters deep. 

In the waters deep. 

^ The Battle of Alma, fought on 8th September, old style =20th September, 
new style. 

* Prince Alexander M^nshikof, who was Commander-in-Chief in the Crimea 
till replaced by Gortchak6f. Besides being diplomatist and General, he was 
also an Admiral. In the other verses he is nicknamed ' M^nshik.' 


' Luck to all I wish/ he said then. 
To Baktchiscrdy ^ he sped then ; 

' May you all be blowed ! 

^ May you all be blowed ! ' 

Saint Arnaud * got out of sight ; 
And in manner most polite. 

Came round to our back, 

Came round to our back. 

And on Tuesday, I 'm afraid 
Had no saint come to our aid, 

HeM have bagged us all. 

He 'd have bagged us all. 

Our Liprandi, it is true 
Captured frenchmen ts not a few, 

But to no avail ! 

But to no avail ! 

Out of Kishinef a force 

Was expected : Foot and Horse, 

And at last they came. 

And at last they came. 

Dannenberg was in command : 
Strictly told to understand 

Not to spare his men. 

Not to spare his men. 

Two Grand Dukes a visit paid : 
But the French, quite undismayed. 

Blazed away with shells. 

Blazed away with shells. 

^ After the Battle of Alma, M^nshikof retreated northward to Baktchiseriy, 
almost abandoning Sevastopol. 

* Saint Arnaud, the French Commander-in-Chief. 


Some ten thousand men were shot : 
From the Tsar they never got 

Any great reward ! 

Any great reward ! 

Then the Prince ^ in anger spoke : 
* Oh ! our men are wretched folk : 

* Why, they \e turned their backs ! 

* Why, they Ve turned their backs ! " 

And in this great battle's flare 
Heroes only two there were : 

The two Royal Dukes ! 

The two Royal Dukes ! 

George's Crosses they were given 
And to Petersburg were driven 

To be feted there ! 

To be feted there ! 

All the priests with head bent down 
Prayed our God the French to drown, 
And there came a storm, 
And there came a storm ! 

There arose a dreadful gale. 

But the French just shortened sail, 

And remained afloat ! 

And remained afloat ! 

Winter came. Sorties we made ; 

Many soldiers low were laid. 

Near those bags of sand, 
Near those bags of sand.^ 

^ Prince Alexander M^nshikof. 

' Bags of sand were used as temporary protection from behind which to 


For reinforcements Menshik prayed ; 
But the Tsar sent to his aid 

Only Osten-Sdken, 

Only Osten-Sdken.! 

Menshik, Admiral so wise, 
To the Tsar writes and replies : 

* Oh, dear Father Tsar, 
' Oh, dear Father Tsar. 

* Sdken is not worth a grain, 

And your Royal youngsters twain ^ 

They 'i-e no good at all ! 

They 're no good at all ! ' 

Royal wrath on Menshik fell. 
And the Tsar felt quite unwell 

At the next review. 

At the next review. 

Straight to heaven he did fare 
(Seems they wanted him up there 

Not a whit too soon. 

Not a whit too soon ! 

As on his deathbed he lay; 
To his son ^ he this did say : 

* Now just you look out, 

* Now just you look out ! ' 

And the son to Menshik wrote : 
^ My dear Admiral, please note, 

You may go to hell. 

You may go to hell ! ' 

' Count Osten-S^ken was sent to advise M^nshikof and to report to the 
Tsar on his operations. 
^ The Grand Dukes alluded to above. 
' Alexander II, who succeeded Nicholas I on ind March (n.s.) 1855. 


* And in place of you 1 11 name 
Gortchakdf, you know, the same 

Who fought Against the Turks ! 
Who fought 'gainst the Turks ! ' 

* With few troops hell go ahead, 
And a pair of breeches red 

Shall be his reward, 
Shall be his reward ! ' 

As a matter of fact the responsibility for these songs, 
which gave satirical expression to the discontent then very 
generally felt, was not entirely Tolstoy^s. They originated 
with a group of officers on the staff of Kryzhandfsky, Com- 
mander of the Artillery, and some others (including Tolstoy) 
who used to meet at Kryzhandfsky ''s rooms almost daily. 
One of this company used to preside at the piano, while 
the others stood round and improvised couplets. In such 
cases some one has usually to pay the piper, and that this 
one should have been Tolstoy, was a natural result both 
of the fact that he seems to have been the chief culprit, 
and of the attention his literary work was attracting at 
this time. 

Another matter which appears to have done Tolstoy no 
good in the eyes of his superiors, was his refusal to fall in 
with a reprehensible practice which by long usage had 
become as well established as, for instance, among our- 
selves, is the purchase of peerages by contributions to 
Party funds. 

Those in command of various divisions of the army, 
including the Commanders of Batteries, used to pay for 
various things, such as shoes for the horses, medicine, office 
expenses, and certain extras for the soldiers, for which no 
official allowance was made ; and the way the money for 
this was obtained was by overestimating the cost and 
quantity of stores and of the fodder required for the 
horses. The difference between the actual and estimated 


cost supplied a revenue which different Commanders used 
in different ways. Some spent it all for the good of the 
service, though in a manner not shown in the accounts ; 
others did not scruple to make private profit of it. 
Tolstoy, during his command of a battery, refused to 
take a balance of cash which had accumulated, and insisted 
on showing it in the accounts. He thereby evoked the 
displeasure of less scrupulous Commanders and called down 
upon himself a rebuke from General Kryzhandfsky, who did 
not consider that it lay with a Sub-Lieutenant in temporary 
command, to attempt to upset so well-established a custom. 
From his letters and memoirs we get clear indications of 
Tolstoy's feelings towards his brother officers ; his distaste 
for the common run of them, and his preference for those 
who were gentlemanly. Here and there, in memoirs and 
magazine articles, one finds records of the impression he 
in his turn produced on his companions. One of them 
relates : 

How Tolstoy woke us all up in those hard times of war, with 
his stories and his hastily composed couplets ! He was really 
the soul of our battery. When he was with us we did not 
notice how time flew, and there was no end to the general 
gaiety. . . . When the Count was away, when he trotted off to 
Simfer6pol, we all hung our heads. He would vanish for one, 
two or three days. ... At last he would return — the very 
picture of a prodigal son! sombre, worn out, and dissatisfied 
with himself. . . . Then he would take me aside, quite apart, 
and would begin his confessions. He would tell me all : how 
he had caroused, gambled, and where he had spent his days and 
nights ; and all the time, if you will believe me, he would con- 
demn himself and suffer as though he were a real criminal. 
He was so distressed that it was pitiful to see him. That's the 
sort of man he was. In a word, a queer fellow, and, to tell the 
truth, one I could not quite understand. He was however a 
rare comrade, a most honourable fellow, and a man one can 
never forget ! 


One who entered the battery just after Tolstoy left it, 
says he was remembered there as an excellent rider, first- 
rate company, and an athlete who, lying on the floor, could 
let a man weighing thirteen stone be placed on his hands, 
and could lift him up by straightening his arms. At a 
tug-of-war (played not with a rope, but with a stick) no 
one could beat him ; and he left behind him the recollec- 
tion of many witty anecdotes told in that masterly style of 
which he never lost the knack. 

His private Diary bears witness to the constantly renewed 
struggle that went on within him, as well as to his profound 
dissatisfaction with himself. Here, for instance, is an esti- 
mate entered in his Diary at the commencement of the war, 
while he was still at Silistria : 

I have no modesty. That is my great defect. What am I ? 
One of four sons of a retired Heutenant-colonel^ left at seven 
years of age an orphan under the guardianship of women and 
strangers; having neither a social nor a scholarly education, 
and becoming my own master at seventeen; with no large 
means^ no social position, and, above all, without principle ; 
a man who has disorganised his own affairs to the last ex- 
tremity, and has passed the best years of his life without aim 
or pleasure; and finally who having banished himself to the 
Caucasus to escape his debts and more especially his bad habits 
— and having there availed himself of some connection that had 
existed between his father and the general in command — passed 
to the army of the Danube at twenty-six, as a Sub-Lieutenant 
almost without means except his pay (for what means he has he 
ought to employ to pay what he still owes) without influential 
friends, ignorant of how to live in society, ignorant of the 
service, lacking practical capacity, but with immense self- 
esteem — such is my social position. Let us see what I myself 
am like. 

I am ugly, awkward, uncleanly, and lack society education. 
I am irritable, a bore to others, not modest, intolerant, and as 
shame-faced as a child. I am almost an ignoramus. What I do 
know, I have learned anyhow, by myself, in snatches, without 


sequence^ without a plan^ and it amounts to very little. 1 am 
incontinent^ undecided^ inconstant and stupidly vain and vehe- 
ment, like aU characterless people. I am not brave. I am not 
methodical in life^ and am so lazy that idleness has become an 
almost unconquerable habit of mine. 

I am clever, but my cleverness has as yet not been thoroughly 
tested on anything; I have neither practical nor social nor 
business ability. 

I am honesty that is to say^ I love goodness, and have formed 
a habit of loving it^ and when I swerve from it I am dissatisfied 
with myself and return to it gladly ; but there is a thing I love 
more than goodness, and that is fame. I am so ambitious, and 
so little has this feeling been gratified, that should I have to 
choose between fame and goodness, I fear I may often choose 
the former. 

Yes, I am not modest, and therefore I am proud at heart, 
though shame-faced and shy in society. 

That is a grossly unfair estimate of himself, but shows 
just that sort of eager injustice to any one who fails to 
reach the high standard he sets up, that has always 
characterised him. His account is inaccurate in details. 
For instance, he was not seven, but nearly nine when his 
father died. He had not wrecked his affairs to the extent 
he suggests. Though his studies had been desultory, he 
had read widely and with a retentive memory and a quick 
understanding. He was a master of the Russian, French 
and Grerman languages, besides having some knowledge of 
English, Latin, Arabic, and Turco-Tartar. (Later in life 
he had a fair knowledge of Italian also.) As for not yet 
having tested his cleverness : he had published stories which 
had caused the editor of the best Russian magazine to ofler 
him the rate of pay accorded to the best-known writers ; 
while his awkwardness in society did not depend on ignor- 
ance ; on the contrary, he had grown up among people who 
paid much attention to manners, and he was himself gifted 
with social tact, which became plainly apparent as soon as 
he attained self-confidence. Any defect in his manners 


must have been merely a result of that nervous shyness 
natural to highly-strung, sensitive natures, conscious of 
powers of a kind society recognises but scantily. Yet, when 
all is said, his description gets home : over-emphatic and 
unfair, like much of his other writing, it still leaves you in 
no doubt as to what he meant, and hits the real points of 
weakness in the victim he is flaying. 

On 6th March 1866 (old style) when he was just 
recovering from that fit of depression at Belbdk which, as 
already mentioned, drove him to gamble, he writes in his 
Diary : 

A conversation about Divinity and Faith has suggested to me 
a great^ a stupendous idea^ to the realisation of which I feel 
myself capable of devoting my life. This idea is the founding 
of a new religion corresponding to the present state of man- 
kind : the religion of Christianity^ but purged of dogmas and 
mysticism : a practical religion, not promising future bliss^ but 
giving bliss on earth. I understand that to accomplish this 
the conscious labour of generations will be needed. One 
generation will bequeath the idea to the next^ and some day 
fanaticism or reason will accomplish it. Deliberate^ to promote 
the union of mankind by religion — that is the basic thought 
which, I hope, will dominate me. 

In that passage one has, quite clearly stated before he 
was twenty-seven, the main idea which actuated Tolstoy 
from the age of fifty onwards. By the literary work he 
accomplished amid all the bustle and excitement of the 
siege, he was half consciously taking a step in the direction 
that allured him. During the three months that elapsed 
between leaving Bucharest and reaching Sevastopol, he 
wrote part of TTie Wood-Fellings a sketch of an expedition 
such as he had taken part in in the Caucasus ; and during 
the siege of Sevastopol he wrote the first two parts of 
Sevastopol and began Youths a sequel to Childhood and 


It was Sevastopol that first brought European fame 
to Tolstoy. When, as already mentioned, Sevastopol in 
December appeared in the June Contemporary^ 
the Emperor ordered it to be translated into 
French. That same month Tolstoy completed and de- 
spatched The Wood'FeUing\ in July he sent otl Sevastopol in 
May. Here once again the Censor exercised his malignant 
power, and PAnaef wrote to Tolstoy from Petersburg : 

In my letter delivered to you by Stolypin^ I wrote that your 
article has been passed by the Censor with unimportant altera- 
tions^ and begged you not to be angry with me that I was 
obliged to add a few words at the end to soften. . . . 3000 
copies of the article had already been printed off^ when the 
Censor suddenly demanded it back, stopped the appearance of 
the number (so that our August number only appeared in 
Petersburg on 18 August) and submitted it to Poiishkin, Presi- 
dent of the Committee of Censors. If you know Poiishkin, you 
wiU be able partly to guess what followed. He flew into a rage, 
was very angry with the Censor, and with me for submitting 
such an article to the Censor, and altered it with his ovm hand. 
. . . On seeing these alterations I was horror-struck, and wished 
not to print the article at all, but Poushkin explained to me 
that I must print it in its present shape. There was no help 
for it, and your mutilated article will appear in the September 
number, but without your initials — which I could not bear to 
see attached to it after that. . . . 

Now a word as to the impression your story produces on all 
to whom I have read it in its original form. Every one thinks 
it stronger than the first part, in its deep and delicate analysis 
of the emotions and feelings of people constantly face to face 
with death, and in the fidelity with which the types of the line- 
officers are caught, their encounters with the aristocrats, and 
the mutual relations of the two sets. In short, all is excellent, 
all is drawn in masterly fashion ; but it is all so overspread with 
bitterness, is so keen, so venomous, so unsparing and so cheer- 
less, that at the present moment when the scene of the story 
is almost sacred ground, it pains those who are at a distance 


from it; and the story may even produce a very unpleasant 

The Wood' Felling, with its dedication to Tourg^nef, will also 
appear in September (Tourg^nef begs me to thank you very, very 
much for thinking of him and paying him this attention). . . . 
In this story also (which passed three Censors : the Caucasian, 
the Military^ and our Civil Censor) the types of officers have 
been tampered with^ and unfortunately a little has been 
struck out. 

Nekrdsof wrote on this same subject in September, saying : 

The revolting mutilation of your article quite upset me. 
Even now I cannot think of it without regret and rage. Your 
work will^ of course, not be lost ... it will always remain as 
proof of a strength able to utter such profound and sober truth 
under circumstances amid which few men would have retained 
it. It is just what Russian society now needs : the truth — ^the 
truth, of which, since G6gors death, so httle has remained in 
Russian literature. You are right to value that side of your 
gifts most of all. Truth — in such form as you have introduced 
it into our literature — is something completely new among us. 
I do not know another writer of to-day who so compels the 
reader to love him and sympathise heartily with him, as he to 
whom I now write ; and I only fear lest time, the nastiness of 
life, and the deafness and dumbness that surround us, should 
do to you what it has done to most of us, and kill the energy 
without which there can be no writer — none, at least, such as 
Russia ^eeds. You are young : changes are taking place 
which, let us hope, may end well, and perhaps a wide 
field lies before you. You are beginning in a way that 
compels the most cautious to let their expectations travel 
far. . . . 

The Wood 'Felling has passed the Censor pretty fairly, 
though from it also some valuable touches have disappeared. 
... In that sketch there are many astonishingly acute 
remarks, and it is all new, interesting, and to the point. 
Do not neglect such sketches. Of the common soldier our 
literature has as yet not spoken, except frivolously. 


Tourgenef, writing from his estate at Spdsskoye to 
Pandef, said : 

Tolstoy's article about Sevastopol is wonderful ! Tears came 
into my eyes as I read it^ and I shouted^ Hurrah ! I am greatly 
flattered by his wish to dedicate his new tale to me. . . Here 
his article has produced a general furore. 

By the side of these contemporary estimates one may 
set Kropdtkin'*s appreciation written fifty years later : 

All his powers of observation and war-psychology^ all his deep 
comprehension of the Russian soldier^ and especially of the 
plain uu-theatrical hero who really wins the battles^ and a pro- 
found understanding of that inner spirit of an army upon which 
depend success and failure: everything^ in shorty which de- 
veloped into the beauty and the truthfulness of fVar and Peace^ 
was already manifested in these sketches^ which undoubtedly 
represented a new departure in war-literature the world over. 

It is worth while to note the very different conclusions 
to which Kinglake, the historian of this war, and Tolstoy, 
its novelist, arrived. Kinglake holds the war to have been 
unnecessary, and attributes it chiefly to the unscrupulous 
ambition of Napoleon IH ; yet he blames the Peace Party 
very severely for protesting against it, for had they not 
done so Nicholas, he thinks, would not have dared to act 
aggressively. Kinglake feels that negotiations between 
rulers and diplomatists are important, and that anything 
that prevents a Government from speaking with authority, 
makes for confusion and disaster. 

Tolstoy, on the other hand (if I may anticipate and 
speak of conclusions not definitely expressed by him till 
much later), regards all war and preparation for war as 
immoral, and wishes this conviction to become so strong 
and general that it will be impossible for any future 
Napoleon to plunge five nations into war to gratify his 

Kinglake understands things as they are, and knows 


how easy it is to do harm with good intentions, but is 
somewhat blind to the trend of human progress, and as 
to what the aim before us should be. Tolstoy, on the 
contrary, is chiefly concerned about the ultimate aim, and 
the state of mind of the individual. The actual working of 
our political system and international relations are things 
he ignores. The English writer sees clearly what is, and 
cares little about what should be; the Russian writer 
cares immensely about what should be, and rather forgets 
that it can only be approached by slow and difficult steps, 
to take which surefootedly, needs an appreciation of things 
as they are. 

For an ambitious young officer actually engaged in a 
war, related to the Commander-in-Chief, and favourably 
noticed by the Emperor, even parti€My to express dis- 
approval of war, was difficult ; and Tolstoy has told me 
that, contending with his desire to tell the truth about 
things as he saw it, he was at the same time aware of 
another feeling prompting him to say what was expected 
of him. 

He, however, like the child in Andersen^s story who sees 
that the king has nothing on, when every one else is in 
ecstasies over the magnificence of the monarch'^s robes, had 
the gift of seeing things with his own eyes, as well as a 
great gift of truthfulness. These were the qualities which 
ultimately made him the greatest literary power of his 
century ; and in spite of his own hesitation, and of the 
Censor'*s mutilations, we may still read the description he 
then wrote of the truce in which the French and Russian 
soldiers hobnobbed together in friendship, a description 
closing with these words : 

White flags are on the bastions and parallels; the flowery 
valley is covered with corpses; the beautiful sun is sinking 
towards the blue sea ; and the undulating blue sea glitters in 
the golden rays of the sun. Thousands of people crowd to- 
gether^ look at, speak to, and smile at one another. And these 


people — Christians confessing the one great law of love and 
self-sacrifice — seeing what they have done^ do not at once fall 
repentant on their knees before Him who has given them life 
and laid in the soul of each a fear of death and a love of good- 
ness and of beauty^ and do not embrace like brothers with tears 
of joy and happiness. 

The white Hags are lowered^ again the engines of death and 
suffering are soundings again innocent blood flows^ and the air 
is filled with moans and curses. 

In Sevastopol^ and in Tennyson's Charge of the Light 
Brigade (with its rhymes about * hundred' and * thun- 
dered,' and its panegyric of those who knew it was not 
their business to think, and at whom ^all the world 
wondered '), we have two typical expressions of conflicting 
views on war : the view of a man who knew it from the 
classics and was Poet Laureate, and the view of a man who 
was in the thick of it, and whose eyes were connected with 
his brain. 

Thirty-four years later Tolstoy wrote a Preface to a 
fellow-officer's Recollections of Sevastopol. It could not 
pass the Censor, but has been used as a Preface to his own 
sketches of war in the English version of Sevastopol^ pub- 
lished by Messrs. Constable, and we may conclude this 
chapter by quoting a few sentences from it. 

Speaking of the position of a young officer engaged in 
the Crimean war, he says : 

To the first question that suggests itself to every one, Why did 
he do it ? Why did he not cease^ and go away ? — the author 
does not reply. He does not say, as men said in olden times 
when they hated their enemies as the Jews hated the Philis- 
tines, that he hated the Allies ; on the contrary, he here and 
there shows his sympathy for them as for brother men. 

Nor does he speak of any passionate desire that the keys of 
the Church at Jerusalem should be in our hands, or even that 
our fleet should, or should not, exist. You feel as you read, that 
to him the life and death of men are not commensurable with 


questions of politics. And the reader feels that to the question : 
Why did the author act as he did ? — there is only one answer ; 
It was because I enlisted while still young, or before the war 
began, or because owing to inexperience I chanced to slip into 
a position from which I could not extricate myself without 
great effort. I was entrapped into that position, and when 
they obliged me to do the most unnatural actions in the world, 
to kill my brother men who had done me no harm, I preferred 
to do this rather than to suffer punishment and disgrace. . . . 
One feels that the author knows there is a law of God : love 
thy neighbour, and therefore do not kiU him, — a law which 
cannot be repealed by any human artifice. 

The merit of the book consists in that It is a pity it is only 
felt, and not plainly and clearly expressed. Sufferings and 
deaths are described ; but we are not told what caused them. 
Thirty-five years ago — even that was well, but now something 
more is needed. We should be told what it is that causes 
soldiers to suffer and to die, — that we may know, and under- 
stand, and destroy these causes. 

' War ! How terrible,' people say, ' is war, with its wounds, 
bloodshed, and deaths ! We must organise a Red Cross Society 
to alleviate the wounds, sufferings and pains of death.' But, 
truly, what is dreadful in war is not the wounds, sufferings and 
deaths. The human race that has always suffered and died, 
should by this time be accustomed to suffering and death, and 
should not be aghast at them. Without war people die by 
famine, by inundations, and by epidemics. It is not suffering 
and death that are terrible, but it is that which allows people to 
inflict suffering and death. . . . 

It is not the suffering and mutilation and death of man's 
body that most needs to be diminished, — but it is the mutila- 
tion and death of his soul. Not the Red Cross is needed, 
but the simple cross of Christ to destroy falsehood and 
deception. . . . 

I was finishing this Preface when a cadet from the Military 
College came to see me. He told me that he was troubled by 
religious doubts. . . . He had read nothing of mine. I spoke 
cautiously to him of how to read the Gospels so as to find in 
them the answers to life's problems. He listened and agreed. 


Towards the end of our conversation I mentioned wine^ and 
advised him not to drink. He replied : * but in military service 
it is sometimes necessary.' I thought he meant necessary for 
health and strength, and I intended triumphantly to overthrow 
him by proofs from experience and science^ but he continued : 
'Why, at Geok-Tepe, for instance, when Sk6belef had to 
massacre the inhabitants, the soldiers did not wish to do it, but 
he had drink served out and then. . . .' Here are all the 
horrors of war — they are in this lad with his fresh young face, 
his little shoulder-straps (under which the ends of his hood are 
so neatly tucked), his well-cleaned boots, his naive eyes, and 
with so perverted a conception of life. 

This is the real horror of war ! 

What millions of Red Cross workers could heal the wounds 
that swarm in that remark — the result of a whole system of 
education ! 





Nekrasof 's letters to Tolstoy, Niva, February 1898. 

Also, Tolstoy's Sevastopol, and his 

Preface to Ershofs RecoUections of Sevastopol, 

Kropotkin, IdeaU and Realities in Russian Literature : London, 1905. 



Petersburg. Tourgenef. The Contemporary, Death of his 
brother Demetrius. Drouzhfnin. The Behrs. Love affairs. 
Engagement with V.V.A. Illness. Leaves the army. En- 
gagement broken off. Correspondence with Tourgenef. 
Writings. Drouzhinin's criticism of YovUh and of Tolstoy's 
style. Books that influenced him. Emancipation of serfs. 
Poushkin. Self-condemnation in his Cof\femon, 

A NUMBER of distinguished writers have recorded their 
opinions of the talented young officer who appeared in 
Petersburg before the war was quite over, and im- 
mediately entered the fraternity then supporting the 
Contemporary. From their memoirs one sees what 
Tolstoy was like at this, the stormiest and least satis- 
factory period of his life. 

The Contemporary was a monthly review founded by 
Poushkin and Pletnef in 1836. It passed in 1847 to 
Pandef and the poet Nekrdsof, and when Tolstoy b^an to 
write, was recognised as the leading and most progressive 
Russian literary periodical. Its chief contributors formed 
an intimate group, united by close personal acquaintance, 
by sympathy with the Emancipation movement then 
making itself felt, and also by a common agreement (not 
it is true very strictly or very permanently observed) to 
write exclusively for the Contemporary, The point to be 
noticed is that the circle Tolstoy entered consisted of a 
friendly, sociable group of people who considered themselves 



ardent reformers; and that though Tolstoy's talent and 
his wish to have his works published, threw him and them 
together, he never appears to have had the least inclination 
to co-operate on that footing of mutual give-and-take 
toleration which is so essential in public life. Certainly 
he never became friendly with the more advanced men, 
Tchemyshevsky, Mihdylof, and the ultra-democratic Dob- 
rolubof, who were intent on spreading democratic and 
socialistic ideas in Russia. 

It has been suggested that this was due to the fact 
that he was an aristocrat, and that they were democrats ; 
but one has to go deeper than that for the explanation, 
which lies, to a considerable extent, in the fact that the 
advanced Russian Radicals were, for the most part, 
admirers of Grovemmental Jacobinism, whereas Tolstoy 
has from the very start tended to be a No-Government 
man, an Anarchist, and has objected to linking himself 
closely with any group, since such alliance always implies 
some amount of compromise, and some subordination of 
one'^s own opinions. 

The poet Fet, himself a young officer, made Tolstoy^s 
acquaintance at this time. A couple of years later he 
purchased an estate at no very great distance from Ydsnaya 
Polydna, and became a friend of Tolstoy'^s — one in fact 
of the very few people, not of his own family, with whom 
the latter ever formed a close personal friendship. 

His first acquaintance with Tolstoy was however hardly 
auspicious. Calling on Tourgenef in St. Peters- 
burg at ten oVlock one morning, he saw an officer's 
sword hanging in the hall, and asked the man-servant 
whose it was. * It 's Count Tolstoy's sword,' replied the 
man. * He is sleeping in the drawing-room. IvAn Ser- 
geyevitch [Tourgenef] is having breakfast in the study.' 
During Fet's visit of an hour's duration, he and his host 
had to converse in low tones for fear of waking Tolstoy. 
^ He is like this all the time,' said Tourgenef. ^ He came 


back from his Sevastopol battery ; put up here, and is going 
the pace. Sprees, gipsy-girls, and cards all night long — 
and then he sleeps like a corpse till two in the afternoon. 
At first I tried to put the break on, but now I Ve given it 
up, and let him do as he likes.** 

Fet tells us that as soon as he met Tolstoy he noticed 
his instinctive defiance of all accepted opinions; and at 
Nekrdsofs lodgings, the first time he saw Tolstoy and 
Tourg^nef together, he witnessed the desperation to which 
the former reduced the latter by his biting retorts. 

' I can't admit/ said Tolstoy^ ' that what you say expresses 
your convictions. If I stand at the door with a dagger or a 
sword^ and say, " While I am alive no one shall enter here," 
that shows conviction. But you, here, try to conceal the true 
inwardness of your thoughts from one another, and call thai 
conviction ! ' 

' Why do you come here ? ' squeaked Tourgenef, panting, his 
voice rising to a falsetto (as always happened when he was 
disputing). ' Your banner is not here ! Go ! Go to the salon 
of Princess B ! ' 

' Why should I ask you, where I am to go ? Besides, empty 
talk won't become conviction, merely because I am, or am not 
here,' replied Tolstoy. 

Though he cared little for politics, Fef^s sympathies 
inclined to the Conservative side, and he found himself in 
accord with Tolstoy rather than with Tourgenef and the 
other Contemporarians ; but ¥eVs stay in Petersburg at 
this time was a short one, and he therefore saw little 
of Tolstoy. D. V. Grigordvitch, the novelist, however, 
reported to him another scene which also occurred at 
Nekr^ofs lodging. 

You can't imagine what it was like! Great Heavens! 
said Grigor6vitch. Tourgenef squeaked and squeaked, holding 
his hand to his throat, and with the eyes of a dying gazelle 
whispered : ' I can stand no more ! I have bronchitis ! ' and 
began walking to and fro through the three rooms. — ' Bronchitis 


is an imaginary illness/ growls Tolstoy after him : ^Bronchitis 
is a metal ! ' 

Of course Nekrdsof 's heart sank : he feared to lose either 
of these valuable contributors to the Contemporary, We were 
all agitated^ and at our wits' end to know what to say. 
Tolstoy, in the middle room, lay sulking on the morocco sofa ; 
while Tourgenef, spreading the tails of his short coat and with 
his hands in his pockets, strode to and fro through the three 
rooms. To avert a catastrophe, I went to the sofa and said, 
' Tolstoy, old chap, don't get excited ! You don't know how 
he esteems and loves you ! ' 

' I won't allow him to do an3rthing to spite me ! ' exclaimed 
Tolstoy with dilated nostrils. ' There ! Now he keeps march- 
ing past me on purpose, wagging his democratic haunches ! ' 

The rest of the evidence is of much the same nature. 
Of desire to agree, there was hardly a trace in Tolstoy, 
who never doubted his own sincerity and seldom credited 
that quality to others. The aristocratic influences that 
surrounded his upbringing never induced him to be lenient 
to men of his own class, such as Tourgenef ; but they led 
him to judge harshly and unsympathetically new men who 
were pushing their way to the front by their own ability. 
Fet, in his Mhnoires^ speaks with regret of the fact that 
the educated classes (Hhe Intel ligents ') attracted by 
Liberal ideas which make for the Emancipation of the 
serfs, formed so strong a current of opinion that even the 
literature produced by the nobility (and he claims that 
the nobles supplied all the truly artistic literature) 
advocated changes which struck at the root of the most 
fundamental privileges of their class. This tendency, he 
tells us, revolted * Tolstoy's fresh, unwarped instinct.' 

Grigordvitch, in his Literary Memoirs^ tells us that, 
knowing how out of sympathy Tolstoy was with Peters- 
burg, and how evident it was that everything in 
Petersburg irritated him, he was surprised to find that 
the latter took permanent lodgings there. Grigordvitch, 


himself a Contemporarian, had met Totstoy in Moscow; 
and coming across him again in Petersburg, and hearing 
that he was invited to dine with the staff of the Con- 
temporary^ but did not yet know any of the members 
intimately, agreed to accompany him. 

On the way I warned him to be on his guard about certain 
matters, and especially to avoid attacking Georges Sand, 
whom he much disliked, but who was devoutly wor^pped by 
many Contemporarians. The dinner passed off all right, 
Tolstoy being rather quiet at first, but at last he broke out. 
Some one praised Georges Sand's new novel, and he abruptly 
declared his hatred of her, adding that the heroines of the 
novels she was then writing, if they really existed, ought to be 
tied to the hangman's cart and driven through the streets 
of Petersburg. He had, adds GrigonSvitch, already then 
developed that peculiar view of women and of the woman- 
question, which he afterwards expressed so vividly in Anna 

With all the curious convolutions of Tolstoy's character, 
there is a remarkable tenacity of conviction running 
through his whole life, and a remark in Resurrectkniy 
written nearly half a century later, throws a flood of 
light on the fact of his so detesting Georges Sand'^s 
emancipated heroines while he was himself living a loose life. 
In that book, the hero has been attracted as well as repelled 
first by Mariette, the General's wife, and then by a hand- 
some demi-mondaine he passes in the street, and this is 
his reflection : 

The animalism of the brute nature in man is disgusting, 
thought he ; but as long as it remains in its naked form we 
observe it from the height of our spiritual life and despise it ; 
and, whether one has f alien or resisted, one remains what one was 
before. But when that same animalism hides under a cloak of 
poetry and esthetic feeling, and demands our worship — then we 
are swallowed up by it completely, and worship animalism, no 
longer distinguishing good from evil. Then it is awful ! 









Grigordvitch in another place speaks of Tolstoy's 
< readiness to contradict/ It did not matter what opinion 
was being expressed; and the more authoritative the 
speaker appeared to be, the more eager was Tolstoy to 
oppose him and to begin a verbal duel. ^Watching how 
he listened to the speaker and pierced him with his eyes, 
and noticing how ironically he pressed his lips together, 
one conjectured that he was preparing not a direct reply, 
but such an expression of opinion as would perplex his 
opponent by its unexpectedness.*" 

Danil^vsky, the novelist, confirms this impression of 
Tolstoy's eagerness to oppose. They met at the house of a 
well-known sculptor. Tolstoy entered the drawing-room 
while a new work of Herzen's was being read aloud, and 
quietly took up a position behind the reader's chair. 
When the reading was over, he began, at first gently and 
with restraint, then hotly and boldly, to attack Herzen 
and the enthusiasm then current for his revolutionary and 
emancipatory works ; and he spoke so convincingly and 
with such sincerity, that Danilevsky says he never after- 
wards saw one of Herzen's publications in that house. 

Tourgenef once said : * In Tolstoy the character which 
afterwards lay at the base of his whole outlook on life 
early made itself manifest. He never believed in people's 
sincerity. Every spiritual movement seemed to him false, 
and he used to pierce those on whom his suspicion fell 
with his extraordinarily penetrating eyes ' ; and Tourgenef 
went on to say that personally he had never encountered 
anything more disconcerting than that inquisitorial look, 
which, accompanied by two or three biting words, was enough 
to drive to fury any man who lacked strong self-control. 

The different sides of men's characters do not always 
advance simultaneously or harmoniously ; and it frequently 
happens that those awakening to a sense of public duty 
remain self-indulgent in respect to wine or women, while 
others become abstainers or respectable husbands while 


remaining oblivious of the political duties they owe to the 
community. Among the reformers whose acquaintance 
Tolstoy made in Petersburg, there was unfortunately a 
great deal of gluttony, drinking, gambling and loose 
living, and Tolstoy — though he was often remorseful and 
repentant about his own excesses with wine, women, and 
cards — with his innate propensity for demanding all or 
nothings bitterly resented this in others. He would no 
doubt have considered it hypocritical had he himself 
come forward as a reformer before obtaining mastery over 
his own appetites, and he judged others by the same 

The ill success of the Crimean war had dealt a blow to 
the prestige of the Tsardom, and a series of wide-reaching 
reforms were being prepared at this time — among which the 
most important were the abolition of serfdom, the reform 
of civil and criminal law, the introduction of trial by jury 
and of oral proceedings in the law courts, the establish- 
ment of a system of Local Government somewhat resembling 
our County Councils, and some relaxation of the insensate 
severity of the press censorship. But though Tolstoy 
reached Petersburg at a moment when Russia was enter- 
ing on this hopeful and fruitful period of internal reform, 
neither in his published writings nor in any private 
utterance we know of, does he express much sympathy 
with those reforms, or show any perception of the 
advantage that accrues to a nation whose inhabitants 
interest themselves in public affairs. He never realised 
that even if a people make for themselves bad laws, the 
very fact of being invited to think about large practical 
matters, and being allowed to test their own conclusions 
in practice, fosters a habit of not fearing to think, and to 
act in accord with oner's thought ; and that this habit of 
applying thought to the guidance of practical affairs, 
overflows into a nation's commerce and industry and 
agriculture, and ultimately causes the difference between 



the comparative material security of our Western world 
and the chronic fear of famine that oppresses many Eastern 

But complex problems of public policy — which are 
always difficult, and call for patience, tolerant co-operation, 
and a willingness to accept half-loaves when whole ones 
are unobtainable — never were to Tolstoy's taste. He 
hankers after simple, clear-cut solutions, such as are obtain- 
able only subjectively, in the mind. 

A few years later than the time of which we are speak- 
ing, Tolstoy commenced a novel called The DecembristSy 
which begins with a description of these reform years. 
The passage shows how scornfully he regarded the whole 
movement for the liberation of the people and the 
democratisation of their institutions. These are his 

This happened not long ago, in the reign of Alexander 11^ 
in our times of civilisation, progress, problems, re-birth of Russia^ 
etc. etc. ; the time when the victorious Russian army returned 
from Sevastopol which it had surrendered to the enemy ; when 
all Russia was celebrating the destruction of the Black Sea 
fleet ; and white-walled Moscow greeted, and congratulated on 
that auspicious event, the remainder of the crews of that fleets 
offering them a good old Russian goblet of vodka, and in the 
good old Russian way bringing them bread and salt and bowing 
at their feet. This was the time when Russia, in the person 
of her far-sighted virgin politicians, wept over the destruction 
of her dream of a Te Deum in the Cathedral of St. Sophia, and 
the deep-felt loss to the fatherland of two great men who had 
perished during the war (one who, carried away by impatience 
to hear the Te Deum referred to above, had fallen on the fields 
of Wallachia, not without leaving there two squadrons of 
Hussars; and the other an invaluable man who distributed 
tea, other people's money, and sheets, to the wounded 
without stealing any of them); in that time when from all 
sides, in all departments of human activity in Russia, great 
men sprang up like mushrooms: commanders, administrators^ 



economists, writers, orators, and simply great men without any 
special calling or aim ; in that time when at the Jubilee of a 
Moscow actor, public opinion, fortified by a toast, appeared and 
began to punish all wrongdoers; when stem commissioners 
galloped from Petersburg to the South and captured, exposed, 
and punished the commissariat rascals ; when in all the towns 
dinners with toasts were given to the heroes of Sevastopol, and 
to those of them whose arms and legs had been torn off, coppers 
were given by those who met them on the bridges or highways; 
at that time when oratorical talents were so rapidly developed 
among the people that one publican everywhere and on all 
occasions wrote, printed, and repeated by heart at dinners, 
such powerful speeches that the guardians of order were obliged 
to undertake repressive measures to subdue his eloquence ; 
when even in the English Club in Moscow a special room was 
set apart for the consideration of public affairs ; when periodicals 
appeared under the most varied banners ; journals developing 
European principles on a European basis but with a Russian 
world-conception, and journals on an exclusively Russian basis, 
developing Russian principles but with a European world-concep- 
tion; when suddenly, so many journals appeared that it seemed 
as if all possible titles had been used up : ' The Messenger,' ' The 
Word,' ' The Discourse,' ' The Eagle,' and many others ; when 
nevertheless fresh titles presented themselves continually ; at that 
time when pleiades of new author-philosophers appeared, proving 
that Science is national and is not national and is international, 
and so on : and pleiades of writer-artists, who described woods 
and sun-rises, and thunders, and the love of a Russian maiden, 
and the idleness of one official, and the misconduct of many 
officials ; at that time when from all sides appeared problems 
(as in the year '56 every concourse of circumstances was called 
of which nobody could make head or tail) ; the problem of the 
Cadet Schools, the Universities, the Censor, oral tribunals, 
finance, the banks, the police, the Emancipation, and many 
others ; everybody still tried to discover new questions, and 
everybody tried to solve them ; they wrote, and read, and 
talked, and drew up projects, and all wished to amend, destroy 
and alter, and all Russians, as one man, were in an indescrib- 
able state of enthusiasm. That was a condition which has 


occurred twice in Russia in the nineteenth century : the first 
time was in the year '12 when we thrashed Napoleon I^ and 
the second time was in '56 when Napoleon III thrashed us. 
Great, unforgettable epoch of the re-birth of the Russian 
people ! Like the Frenchman who said that he had not lived 
at all who had not lived during the Great French Revolution, 
so I make bold to say that he who did not live in Russia in '56, 
does not know what life is. The writer of these lines not 
merely lived at that time, but was one of the workers of that 
period. Not merely did he personally sit for some weeks in 
one of the casemates of Sevastopol, but he wrote a work about 
the Crimean War which brought him great fame, and in which 
he clearly and minutely described how the soldiers in the 
bastion fired off their muskets, how in the hospitals people were 
bound up with bandages, and how in the cemetery they were 
buried in the earth. 

Having performed these exploits, the writer of these lines 
arrived at the heart of the Empire, at a rocket-station, where 
he reaped his laurels. He witnessed the enthusiasm of both 
capitals and of the whole people, and experienced in his own 
person how Russia can reward real service. The great ones 
of the earth sought his acquaintance, pressed his hands, offered 
him dinners, persistently invited him to come and see them, 
and in order to hear from him particulars about the war, 
narrated to him their own sensations. Therefore the writer of 
these lines knows how to appreciate that great and memorable 
time. But that is another story. 

Early in 1856 Tolstoy's third brother, Demetrius, died 
in Orel. His history has been told in Chapter II. Tolstoy 
says : ^ I was particularly horrid at that time. I 
went to Orel from Petersburg, where I frequented 
society and was filled with conceit. I felt sorry for 
Mitenka, but not very sorry. I paid him a hurried visit, 
but did not stay at Orel, and my brother died a few days 
after I left." On 2nd February the news reached Leo; 
but he says : * I really believe that what hurt me most, 
was that it prevented my taking part in some private 


theatricals then being got up at Court, and to which I 
had been invited .'' 

In March the Crimean war terminated, and this enabled 
Tolstoy to obtain furlough. 

On 25th March he wrote to his brother Sergius : 

I want to go abroad for eight months, and if they give me 
leave I shall do so. I wrote to Nik61enka about it, and asked 
him to come too. If we could all three arrange to go together 
it would be first-rate ! If each of us took Rs. 1000, we could 
do the trip capitally. 

Please write and tell me how you like The Snow Storm, I 
am dissatisfied with it — seriously. But I now want to write 
many things, only I positively have no time in this damned 
Petersburg. Anyway, whether they let me go abroad or not, 
I intend to take furlough in April and come to the country. 

On ISth May he was still in Petersburg, and we find 
him noting in his Diary : 

The powerful means to true happiness in life, is to let flow 
from oneself on all sides, without any laws, like a spider, a 
cobweb of love, and to catch in it all that comes to hand : 
women old or young, children, or policemen. 

Among his literary acquaintances of this time the one 
for whom he seems to have felt most sympathy and respect 
was Drouzhinin, a critic, writer of stories, and translator 
of Shakespear. Early in 1856 we find Drouzhinin leading 
a revolt against the Contemporary and attracting some of 
the contributors to the Reading Library , a rival magazine, 
to which Tolstoy contributed an article in December of 
that year. 

It was not till the end of May that he got away from 
Petersburg, and on his way home he stopped in Moscow 
and visited the family of Dr. Behrs, a Russian of German 
origin, who had married Miss Islenyef. The first mention 
one gets of Tolstoy's future wife is a note in his Diary 


relating to this visit to the Behrs's country house near 
Moscow. He says : * The children served us. What dear, 
merry little girls ! ' Little more than six years later, the 
second of these * merry little girls ' was Countess Tolstoy ! 

Three days after this visit he writes to his brother 
Sergius : * I spent ten days in Moscow . . . very pleasantly, 
without champagne or gipsies, but a little in love — I will 
tell you later on with whom/ The object of his affection 
at that time was of course not Dr. Behrs'^s twelve-year-old 

From Y^naya he made a round of visits to see his 
married sister and other neighbours; among them Tourg^nef. 
His relations with this great writer continued for years 
to be of a curiously fluctuating character. In March he 
had written from Petersburg to his Aunt Tatidna : 

I have finished my Hussars, but have not begun any new 
story^ and Tourg6nef has lefl^ whom I now feel that I am very 
fond of^ though we always quarrelled. So I am horribly dull. 

Tourgenef, who had made up his mind to avoid Tolstoy, 
had left Petersburg with that object, and was not over- 
pleased to be followed to his country residence. At any 
rate he complained to his friends that Tolstoy followed 
him about ^ like a woman in love."* 

The case mentioned in the letter to Sergius quoted 
above, was the first serious love affair Tolstoy had had 
with an eye to matrimony, though it had been preceded 
by several abortive attempts. 

He had in childhood been much attached to a certain 
Sonitchka Kaldshina. While at the University, he had 
had a sentimental love aflair with a certain Z. M., who 
seems hardly to have been aware of his devotion. Then 
there was the Cossack damsel who figures in 7%^ Cossacks^ 
and subsequently he much admired a society lady, Madame 
Sch., who may also have been scarcely aware of his feelings, 
for Tolstoy was shy and timid in these matters — which 


were quite difTerent from his affairs with gipsy girls and 
other hireable women. 

The present affair, with V. V. A., was more serious than 
any of its predecessors. It led to a long correspondence, 
and even to their engagement being announced among 
relations and friends. The lady was the good-looking 
daughter of a landowner in the neighbourhood of Ydsnaya 

In August she accompanied her family to Moscow for 
the Coronation of Alexander II. At these festivities 
she enjoyed herself greatly, and described her feelings 
in a letter which dealt the first blow to Tolstoy^s 
admiration. He at once assumed towards her the role 
which more than twenty- five years later he assumed to- 
wards mankind in general, and upbraided her with the 
insignificant and unworthy nature of her interests and 
enjoyments, besides indulging in scathing sarcasms about 
the fashionable circles with which she was so enraptured. 

The young lady did not reply. Tolstoy then begged 
pardon — which was granted. 

Meanwhile he had fallen ill ; and early in September 
he wrote to his brother Sergius : 

Only now, at nine o'clock on Monday evening, can I give you 
a satisfactory reply, for till now things went worse and worse. 
Two doctors were sent for, and administered another forty 
leeches, but only now have I had a good sleep and, on waking 
up, feel considerably better. All the same, there can be no 
question of my leaving home for five or six days yet. So 
au revoir; please let me know when you go (shooting) and 
whether it is true that your farming has been seriously 
neglected ; and do not kill all the game without me. I will 
send the dogs, perhaps, to-morrow. 

He recovered. The young lady returned to her family's 
estate at Soudakc>va, and his visits being renewed, Tolstoy's 
intimacy with her continued and grew closer. 


Yet to * test himself,'' he started for a visit to Petersburg, 
and as soon as he had got as far as Moscow, wrote a letter 
to the young lady in which he dwelt on the importance of 
the mutual attraction of the sexes, the serious nature of 
his and her relation to one another, and the necessity of 
testing themselves by time and distance. 

While living in Petersburg, he learnt the particulars of 
a flirtation the young lady had carried on at the time of 
the Coronation with a French music-master, Mortier ; and 
he wrote her a letter full of reproaches. Instead of post- 
ing it, however, he wrote her another — telling her of the 
one he had written, which he intended to show her when 
they met. 

After once breaking off relations with Mortier, the young 
lady allowed them to be again renewed, and what Tolstoy 
learned of the matter, caused him seriously to reconsider 
his position. For some time his feelings evidently wavered. 
The very day after posting his remonstrance, he wrote 
another letter in a conciliatory tone, and though no reply 
came, he assumed that all was well, and continued the 
corre^ondence by sending her a detailed plan of the life 
they might hope to live together : its surroundings, circle 
of acquaintance, and the arrangement of their time. He 
also tried to interest her in the most serious problems of 

No answer reaching him for a long time, he became 
agitated and perplexed. Then several letters, delayed in 
the post, arrived all at once, and cordial intercourse was 
re-established between the lovers. But though the 
engagement and coiTespondence continued, and expres- 
sions of affection were interchanged, it gradually became 
more and more evident that there was something artificial 
and unsatisfactory in their relation to one another. 

Meanwhile Tolstoy was having other difficulties in 
Petersburg. On 10th November 1856 he writes to his 
brother Sergius : 


Forgive me, dear friend Sery6zha^ for only writing two words 
— I have no time for more. I have been most unlucky since I 
left home ; there is no one here I like. It seems that I have 
been abused in the Fatherland Journal for my war stories — I 
have not yet read the attack ; but the worst is that Konstanti- 
nof [the General under whose command was the battery to 
which Tolstoy was attached] informed me as soon as I got here 
that the Grand Duke Michael, having learnt that I am supposed 
to have composed the Soldiers' Song, is displeased, particularly 
at my having (as rumour says) taught it to the soldiers. This 
is abominable. I have had an explanation with the Head of 
the Staff. The only satisfactory thing is that my health is 
good, and that (Dr.) Schipoulfnsky says my lungs are thoroughly 

On 20th November 1856 Tolstoy left the army, in which 
he had never secured promotion, though he had private 
influence enough to enable him, about this time, to save 
from trial by Court Martial the Commander of the battery 
in which he had served in the Crimea. 

Early in December he left Petersburg for Moscow. 
From there, on 6th December, he writes to Aunt 
Tatidna : 

When I first went away and for a week after, I thought I 
was ' in love 'as it is called ; but with an imagination such as 
mine that was not difficult. 

Now, however, especially since I have set to work diligently, 
I should like — and very much like — to be able to say that I 
am in love, or even that I love her ; but it is not the case. 
The only feeling I have for her is gratitude for her love of me, 
and the thought that of all the girls I have known or know, she 
would have made me the best wife, as I understand family life. 
And that is what I should like to have your candid opinion 
about. Am I mistaken or not ? I should like to hear your 
advice because, in the first place, you know both her and me ; 
and chiefly because you love me and those who love are never 
wrong. It is true that I have tested myself very badly, for 
from the time I left home I have led a solitary rather than a 

Tolstoy in 1856, the year he left the army. 

^■^...f ■*" - 


dissipated life^ and have seen few women ; but notwithstanding 
that^ I have had many moments of vexation with myself for 
having become connected with her, and I have repented of it. 
All the same^ I repeat that if I were convinced that she is of a 
steadfast nature, and would love me always — even though not 
as now, yet more than any one else — then I should not hesitate 
for a moment about marrying her. I am confident that then 
my love of her would increase more and more and that through 
that feeling she would become a good woman. 

The young lady in question visited Petersburg for part 
of the winter season, but Tolstoy does not appear to have 
met her there, being himself away in Moscow for several 
weeks. The correspondence was largely didactic on his 
side, and was so unsatisfactory to the young lady that she 
finally forbade him to write again. He disobeyed the 
injunction, asking her pardon, telling her he was going 
abroad, and begging that she would write to him once 
more, to an address in Paris. 

He wrote to Aunt Tatidna from Moscow, on 1 Sth January 
1857, a letter in which Russian and French alternate. 

♦ CntRB Xante ! — J'ai re9u mon passeport pour I'^tranger et 
je suis venu k Moscou pour y passer quelques jours avec Marie 
arranger mes affaires et prendre cong6 de vous. 

But now I have reconsidered the matter, especially on 
M^henka's advice, and have decided to remain with her here 
a week or two and then to go straight through Warsaw to 
Paris. You no doubt understand, chere iante, why I do not 
wish and why it is not right for me to come now to Y^naya, 
or rather to Soudak6va. I, it seems, have acted very badly in 
relation to V., but were I to see her now, I should behave still 
worse. As I wrote you, I am more than indifferent to her, and 
feel that I can no longer deceive either her or myself. But 
were I to come, I might perhaps, from weakness of character, 
again delude myself. 

* Dear Aunt, — I have received my passport for abroad, aud I have 
come to Moscow to pass some days with Marie, and to take leave of 
you. (See sentences in English in letter above.) 


Vous rappelez-vous^ ch^re tante, comme vous vous ^tes 
moqu^e de moi^ quand je vous ai dit que je partais pour P^ten- 
bourg ' pour m'^prouver/ et cependant c'est k cette id^e que je 
8uis redevable de n'avoir pas fait le malheur de la jeune per- 
son ne et le mien^ car ne croyez pas que ce soit de Tinconstance 
ou de I'infiddit^ ; personne ne ma plu pendant ces deux mois, 
mais tout bonnement j'ai vu que je me trompais moi-m6me; 
que non seulement jamais je n'ai eu^ mais jamais je n'aurais 
pour V. le moindre sentiment d'amour veritable. La seule 
chose qui me fait beaucoup de peine c'est que j'ai fait du tort 
k la demoiselle et que je ne pourrai prendre cong^ de rous 
avant de partir. . . . 

After reaching Paris (an event belonging properly 
to the next chapter) he received a last communica- 
tion from V. V. A. and wrote her a friendly letter in 
reply, speaking of his love as of something past, 
thanking her for her friendship, and wishing her every 

His Aunt Tatidna — ^generally the mildest of critics 
where he was concerned — appears to have blamed him for 
his conduct; and the friends of V. V. A., including 
a French governess, Mile. Vorgani, did so yet more 
severely. In one of his letters, which contains indi- 
cations of an agitation too strong to allow him to 
complete the construction of the opening sentence, he 
says : 

Do you remember^ dear Aunt^ how you made fun of me when 1 
told you 1 was going to Petersburg ' to test myself ? Yet it is that 
idea that has saved me from bringing misery on the young lady and 
on myself; for do not suppose that it is a case of inconstancy or un- 
faithfulness. No one has taken my fancy during these two months, 
but simply I have come to see that 1 was deceiving myself, and that 
I not only never had, but never shall have, the least feeling of true 
love for V. V. A. The only things which give me much pain are 
that I have hurt the young lady, and that I cannot take leave of you 
before my departure. . . 


* Si Mile. V. qui m'a ^crit une lettre aussi ridicule, voulait 
se rappeler toute ma conduite vis-a-vis de V. V. A., comment 
je tfichais de venir le plus rarement possible^ comment c'est 
elle qui m'engageait k venir plus souvent et k entrer dans des 
relations plus proches. Je comprends qu'elle soit flch6e de 
ce qu une chose qu'elle a beaucoup d^sir^e ne s'est pas faite 
(j*en suis flch^ peut-^tre plus qu'elle) mais ce n'est pas une 
raison pour dire a un homme qui s'est efForc6 d'agir le mieux 
possible, qui a fait des sacrifices de peur de faire le malheur 
des autres, de lui dire, qu'il est un pig [this one word is in 
Russian in the original] et de le faire accroire a tout le monde. 
Je suis sQr que Toiila [the town nearest his estate] est convaincu 
que je suis le plus grand des monstres. 

Turning from love to literature and friendship, we have 
two letters of this period from Tourg^»nef. The first is 
dated Paris, 16th November 1856, and is as follows : 

Dearest Tolstoy, — Your letter of 1 5 October took a whole 
month crawling to me — I received it only yesterday. I have 
thought carefully about what you write me — and I think you 
are wrong. It is true I cannot be quite sincere, because I can't 
be quite frank, with you. I think we got to know each other 
awkwardly and at a bad time, and when we meet again it will 
be much easier and smoother. I feel that I love you as a man 
(as an author it needs no saying) ; but much in you is trying to 
me, and ultimately I found it better to keep at a distance from 
you. When we meet we will again try to go hand in hand — 
perhaps we shall succeed better ; for strange as it may sound, 
my heart turns to you when at a distance, as to a brother : 

* If Mile. Vorgani, who has written me so absurd a letter, would 
remember my whole conduct towards V. V. A., how I tried to come 
as seldom as possible, and how it was she who induced me to come 
more frequently and to enter into closer relations. I understand her 
being vexed that an affair she much desired has not come o£P (I per- 
haps am more vexed about it than she) but that is no reason for her 
to tell a man who has tried to act as well as he could, and who has 
made sacrifices in order not to make others unhappy, that he is a pig, 
and to spread that report about. I am sure all Toula is convinced 
that I am the greatest of monsters. . . . 


I even feel tenderly towards you. In a word, I love you — that 
is certain ; perchance from that, in time^ all good will follow. 
I heard of your illness and grieved ; but now, I beg you, drive 
the thought of it out of your head. For you too have your 
fancies^ and are perhaps thinking of consumption — but^ God 
knows^ you have nothing of the sort. . . . 

You have finished the first part of Youth — that is capital. 
How sorry I am to be unable to hear it read ! If you do not go 
astray (which I think there is no reason to anticipate) you will 
go very far. I wish you good healthy activity — and freedom^ 
spiritual freedom. 

As to my Faust, I do not think it will please you very much. 
My things could please you and perhaps have some influence on 
you^ only until you became independent. Now you have no 
need to study me ; you see only the difference of our manners^ 
the mistakes and the omissions; what you have to do is to 
study man, your own hearty and the really great writers. I am 
a writer of a transition period — and am of use only to men in 
a transition state. So farewell^ and be well. Write to me. 

On 8th December 1856 he writes again : 

Dear Tolstoy, — Yesterday my good genius led me past the 
post-office, and it occurred to me to ask if there were any 
letters for me at the poste-restante (though I think that all my 
friends ought long ago to have learnt my Paris address) and 
I found your letter, in which you speak of my Faust, You can 
well imagine how glad I was to read it. Your sympathy 
gladdened me truly and deeply. Yes, and from the whole 
letter there breathes a mild, clear and friendly peacefulness. 
It remains for me to hold out my hand across the * ravine ' 
which has long since become a hardly perceptible cracky about 
which we will speak no more — it is not worth it. 

I fear to speak of one thing you mention : it is a delicate 
matter^ — words may blight such things before they are ripe, 
but when they are ripe a hammer will not break them. God 
grant that all may turn out favourably and well. It may bring 
you that spiritual repose which you lacked when I knew you. 

You have^ I see, now become very intimate with Drouzhinin 


— and are under his influence. That is right, only take care 
not to swallow too much of him. When I was your age, only 
men of enthusiastic natures influenced me ; but you are built 
differently, and perhaps also the times are changed. . . . Let 
me know in which numbers of the Contemporary your YotUh will 
appear; and by the way, let me know the final impression 
made on you by Le/ir, which you probably have read, if only for 
Drouzhinin's sake. 

About the same time Tourgenef wrote to Drouzhinin: 

I hear that you have become very intimate with Tolstoy — 
and he has become very pleasant and serene. I am very glad. 
When that new wine has finished fermenting, it will yield 
a drink fit for the Gods. What about his Youth, which was sent 
for your verdict ? 

The allusion to Drouzhinin's translation of King Lear 
is worth noticing because fully fifty years later it was this 
play that Tolstoy selected for hostile analysis in his famous 
attack on Shakespear. One gathers from a letter written 
by V. P. Botkin, that Drouzhinin^s rendering impressed 
Tolstoy favourably at the time. 

Before quoting Drouzhinin^s criticism of Youth^ it will be 
in place to mention other works by Tolstoy, not yet 
enumerated, which appeared at this period. Memoirs of a 
Billiard Marker^ gi^'ing a glimpse of temptations Tolstoy 
had experienced, was published in January 1855, while he 
was still in Sevastopol. In March 1856 appeared The 
Snow Storniy mention of which has already been made. In 
May 1856 came a rollicking tale, with flashes of humour 
like that of Charles Lever, entitled Two Hussars. It is 
the only story Tolstoy ever wrote in that vein ; and in it 
are introduced gipsy singers such as those of whom repeated 
mention occurs in his letters. In December, before he 
went abroad, two more tales were published : one of these, 
entitled Meeting a Moscow Acqtiaintance in the Detachment, 
consists of a scathing portrayal of the cowardice a man, 


who had passed muster in ^ good society/ displayed when 
circumstances put him to the test. The other story, A 
Squire's Mornings is closely drawn from Tolstoy"*s own ex- 
perience when on first leaving the University he settled on 
his estate and attempted to better the condition of his 
serfs. Their stolidity, their distrust, and the immense 
difficulty of introducing any changes, are all brought out. 
In a letter to Drouzhinin, Tourgenef wrote : 

I have read his Squires Morning, which pleased me exceed- 
ingly by its sincerity and almost complete freedom of outlook. 
I say ' almost ' because in the way he set himself the task, 
there still is hidden (without his perhaps being aware of it) 
a certain amount of prejudice. The chief moral impression 
produced by the story (leaving the artistic impression aside) 
is that so long as the state of serfdom exists^ there is no 
possibility of the two sides drawing together, despite the most 
disinterested and honourable desire to do so ; and this impres- 
sion is good and true. But beside it, like a horse cantering 
beside a trotter, there is another : namely, that in general to 
try to enlighten or improve the condition of the peasants leads 
to nothing ; and this impression is unpleasant. But the mastery 
of language, the way it is told, and his character-drawing, are 

In January 1857 appeared Youths the continuation 
of Childhood and Bot/hood. 
How great Drouzhinin'^s influence was with Tolstoy at 
this time, may be judged by the tone of his letter to 
him, giving an opinion on Youth. He writes : 

About Youth one ought to write twenty pages. I read it 
with anger, with yells and with oaths— not on account of its 
literary quality, but because of the quality of the notebooks in 
which it is written, and the handwritings. The mixing of 
two hands, a known and an unknown, diverted my attention 
and hindered an intelligent perusal. It was as though two 
voices shouted in my ear and purposely distracted my attention, 
and I know that this has prevented my receiving an adequate 


impression. All the same I will say what I can. Your task 
was a terrible one, and you have executed it very well. No 
other writer of our day could have so seized and sketched the 
agitated and disorderly period of youth. To those who are 
developed^ your Youth will furnish an immense pleasure ; and 
if any one tells you it is inferior to Childhood and Boyhood you 
may spit in his physiognomy. There is a world of poetry in it 
— all the first chapters are admirable ; only the introduction is 
dry till one reaches the description of spring. ... In many 
chapters one scents the poetic charm of old Moscow, which 
no one has yet reproduced properly. Some chapters are dry 
and long : for instance all the stipulations with Dmitry Neh- 
liidof. . . . The conscription of Semy6nof will not pass the 

Do not fear your reflections, they are all clever and original. 
But you have an inclination to a super-refinement of analysis 
which may become a great defect. You are sometimes on the 
point of saying that so-and-so's thigh indicated that he wished 
to travel in India. You must restrain this tendency, but do 
not extinguish it on any account. All your work on your 
analyses should be of the same kind. Each of your defects has 
its share of strength and beauty, and almost every one of your 
qualities carries with it the seed of a defect. 

Your style quite accords with that conclusion : you are most 
ungramraatical, sometimes with the lack of grammar of a 
reformer and powerful poet reshaping a language his own way 
and for ever, but sometimes with the lack of grammar of an 
officer sitting in a casemate and writing to his chum. One can 
say with assurance that all the pages you have written with 
love are admirable, — but as soon as you grow cold, your words 
become entangled, and diabolical forms of speech appear. 
Therefore the parts written coldly should be revised and cor- 
rected. I tried to straighten out some bits, but gave it up ; it 
is a work which only you can and must do. Above all, avoid 
long sentences. Cut them up into two or three; do not be 
sparing of full-stops. . . . Do not stand on ceremony with the 
particles, and strike out by dozens the words : which, who, and 
that. When in difficulties take a sentence and imagine that 
you want to say it to some one in a most conversational way. 


As a translator I may testify that Tolstoy never fully 
learned the lesson Urouzhinin here set him, and that to the 
very last he continued occasionally to intermingle passages of 
extraordinary simplicity and force with sentences that defy 
analysis and abound in redundances. 

Nearly fifty years later Tolstoy himself criticised the 
subject-matter of Childhood^ Boyhood^ and Youth as 
follows : 

I have re-read them and regret that I wrote them ; so ill, 
artificially and insincerely are they penned. It could not be 
otherwise : first, because what I aimed at was not to write ray 
own history but that of the friends of my youth, and this pro- 
duced an awkward mixture of the facts of their and my own 
childhood ; and secondly, because at the time I wrote it I was 
far from being independent in my way of expressing myself, 
being strongly influenced by two writers: Sterne (his Senti- 
menial Journey) and Topffer (his Bibliotheque de Mon Onck), 

I am now specially dissatisfied with the two last parts. Boy- 
hood and Youths in which besides an awkward mixture of truth 
and invention, there is also insincerity : a desire to put forward 
as good and important what I did not then consider good and 
important, namely, my democratic tendency. 

Before concluding this chapter it will be in place to 
give a list of books Tolstoy mentions as having influenced 
him after he left the University and before his marriage. 
They were: Goethe's Hermann und Dorothea \ Hugo's 
Notre Dame de Paris ; Plato's Phaedo and Symposium (in 
Cousin's French translation) ; and the Iliad and Odyssey in 
Russian versions. All these, he says, had a * very great ' 
influence on him, while the poems of his compatriots, 
Tutchef, K(')ltsof, and his friend Fet, had * great' influence. 

He tells us that artistic talent in literature influenced 
him more than any political or social tendency ; and this is 
quite in accord with his general apathy towards public 
afiairs. There was a Slavophil theory (built to justify 
things as they were) which proclaimed it natural for a 


Slavonic people to leave the task of governing to its rulers, 
while retaining its intellectual freedom to disapprove of 
what was done amiss ; and though Tolstoy never joined the 
Slavophils, this has been very much his own attitude on 
the matter. 

Even in early childhood he had appreciated some of 
Poushkin's poems, such as To the Sea and To Napoleon^ 
and had learned them by heart and recited them with 
feeling; but curiously enough it was the perusal of 
Merim^^s French prose translation of Poushkin^s Gipsies 
that, after he was grown up, aroused Tolstoy's keen admira- 
tion of Poushkin's mastery of clear, simple, direct language. 
Later in life Tolstoy used to say that Poushkin'^s prose 
stories, such as The CaptairCs Daughter^ are his best works ; 
but he never lost his appreciation of Poushkin's power of 
expression in verse. In his Diary (4th January 1857) he 

I dined at B6tkin's with Pinaef alone; he read me Poiishkin ; 
I went into B6tkin'8 study and wrote a letter to Tourg^ef, and 
then I sat down on the sofa and wept causeless but blissful 
tears. I am positively happy all this time^ intoxicated with the 
rapidity of my moral progress. 

Despite his headstrong outbursts and many vacillations, 
he seems to have been always a welcome guest in almost 
any society he cared to frequent, and none of his critics has 
spoken as harshly of him as he speaks of himself when 
describing these 

terrible twenty years of coarse dissipation, the service of 
ambition, vanity, and above all of lust. ... It is true that not 
all my life was so terribly bad as this twenty-year period from 
fourteen to thirty-four ; and it is true that even that period of 
my life was not the continuous evil that during a recent illness 
it appeared to me to be. Even during those years, strivings 
towards goodness awoke in me, though they did not last long, 
and were soon choked by passions nothing could restrain. 


In his Confession^ written more than twenty years later, 
when speaking of his religious beliefs at this time, Tolstoy 
tells us : 

With all my spul I wished to be good ; but I was young, 
passionate^ and alone, completely alone when I sought good- 
ness. Every time I tried to express my most sincere desire, 
namely, to be morally good, I met with contempt and ridicule ; 
but as soon as I yielded to nasty passions I was praised and 

Ambition, love of power, covetousness, lasciviousness, pride, 
anger and revenge — were all respected. ... I cannot think of 
those years without horror, loathing and heartache. I killed 
men in war, and challenged men to duels in order to kill them ; 
I lost at cards, consumed the labour of the peasants, sentenced 
them to punishments, lived loosely and deceived people. Lying, 
robbery, adultery of all kinds, drunkenness, violence, murder — 
there was no crime I did not commit, and people approved of 
my conduct, and my contemporaries considered and consider 
me to be a comparatively moral man. 

So I lived for ten years. 

During that time I began to write from vanity, covetousness 
and pride. In my writings I did the same as in my life. To 
get fame and money, for the sake of which I wrote, it was 
necessary to hide the good and to show the evil. And I did so. 
How often in my writings did I contrive to hide under the 
guise of indifference or even of banter, those strivings of mine 
towards goodness, which gave meaning to my life ! And I 
succeeded in this, and was praised. 

At twenty-six years of age ^ I returned to Petersburg after 
the war, and met the writers. They received me as one of 
themselves and flattered me. And before I had time to look 
round I had adopted the class views on life of the authors 
I had come among, and these views completely obliterated all 
my former strivings to improve. Those views furnished a 
theory which justified the dissoluteness of my life. The view 
of hfe of these people, my comrades in authorship, consisted 
in this : that life in general goes on developing, and in this 

* Tolstoy makes a slip here : he was over twenty-seven. 


development we — men of thought — have the chief part ; and 
among men of thought it is we — artists and poets — who have 
the chief influence. Our vocation is to teach mankind. And 
lest the simple question should suggest itself: What do I 
know, and what can I teach .^ it is explained in this theory 
that this need not be known, and that the artist and poet 
teach unconsciously. I was considered an admirable artist and 
poet, and therefore it was very natural for me to adopt this 
theory. I, artist and poet, wrote and taught, without myself 
knowing what. For this I was paid money; I had excellent 
food, lodging, women and society; and 1 had fame, which 
showed that what I taught was very good. 

This faith in the meaning of poetry and in the development 
of life, was a religion, and I was one of its priests. To be 
its priest was very pleasant and profitable. And I lived a 
considerable time in this faith without doubting its validity. 
But in the second, and especially in the third year of this life, 
I began to doubt the infallibility of this religion and to examine 
it. My first cause of doubt was that I began to notice that 
the priests of this religion were not all in accord among them- 
selves. Some said : We are the best and most useful teachers ; 
we teach what is wanted, but the others teach wrongly. Others 
said : No ! we are the real teachers, and you teach wrongly. 
And they disputed, quarrelled, abused one another, cheated, 
and tricked one another. There were also many among them 
who did not care who was right and who was wrong, but were 
simply bent on attaining their covetous aims by means of this 
activity of ours. All this obliged me to doubt the validity of 
our creed. 

Moreover, having begun to doubt the truth of the authors' 
creed itself, I also began to observe its priests more attentively, 
and I became convinced that almost all the priests of that 
religion, the writers, were immoral, and for the most part men 
of bad, worthless character, much inferior to those whom I had 
met in my former dissipated and military life ; but they were 
self-confident and self-assured as only those can be who are 
quite holy or who do not know what holiness is. These people 
revolted me, and I became revolting to myself^ and I realised 
that that faith is a fraud. 


But strange to say, though I understood this fraud and 
renounced it, yet I did not renounce the rank these people 
gave me: the rank of artist, poet, and teacher. I naively 
imagined that I was a poet and artist and could teach every- 
body without myself knowing what I was teaching, and I acted 
on that assumption. 

From my intimacy with these men I acquired a new vice : 
abnormally developed pride, and an insane assurance that it was 
my vocation to teach men, without knowing what. 

To remember that time, and my own state of mind and 
that of those men (though there are thousands like them 
to-day) is sad and terrible and ludicrous, and arouses exactly 
the feeling one experiences in a lunatic asylum. 

We were all then convinced that it was necessary for us to 
speak, write^ and print as quickly as possible and as much as pos- 
sible, and that it was all wanted for the good of humanity. And 
thousands of us, contradicting and abusing one another, all 
printed and wrote — teaching others. And without remarking 
that we knew nothing, and that to the simplest of life's ques- 
tions : What is good and what is evil ? we did not know how 
to reply, we all, not listening to one another, talked at the 
same time, sometimes backing and praising one another in 
order to be backed and praised in turn, sometimes getting 
angry with one another — just as in a lunatic asylum. 

Thousands of workmen laboured to the extreme limit of their 
strength day and night setting the type and printing millions 
of words which the post carried all over Russia, and we still 
went on teaching and could nohow find time to teach enough, 
and were always angry that sufficient attention was not paid 
to us. 

It was terribly strange, but is now quite comprehensible. 
Our real innermost consideration was, that we wanted to get as 
much money and praise as possible. To gain this end we could 
do nothing except write books and papers. So we did that. 
But in order to do such useless work and feel assured that we 
were very important people, we required a theory justifying our 
activity. And so among us this theory was devised : ' All that 
exists develops. And it all develops by means of Culture. 
And Culture is measured by the circulation of books and 


newspapers. And we are paid money and are respected 
because we write books and newspapers^ and therefore we are 
the most useful and the best of men.' This theory would have 
been all very well if we had been unanimous, but as every 
thought expressed by one of us was always met by a diametrically 
opposed thought expressed by some one else, we ought to have 
been driven to reflection. But we ignored this ; people paid us 
money, and those on our side praised us ; so each one of us 
considered himself justified. 





Golovatcheva-Panaeva, Rotuskie PUateiii ArtUty: Petersburg, 1890. 

D. V. Grigorovitch, Literatoumiya Voipominaniya : voL xiL p. 326. 

G. P. Danilevsky, Maritcheskii Vestnik : March 1886. 

Tolstoy's dntfesaion. 

See also, in Tolstoy's works. The DecembrUts, chap. L 



Paris. Relations with Tourgenef. Albert. An execution. 
Switzerland. Lucerne, Yasnaya again. The lUad and the 
Gospels. Moscow: gymnastics. Three Deaths, Musical 
Society. Aunty Tatiana. ' Ufanizing.' Emancipation. 
Bear-hunting. Moscow Society of Lovers of Russian Litera- 
ture. Attitude towards Art in 1859. Tourgenef. Farming. 
Fet. Drouzhmin. Nicholas's illness. Goes abroad again. 
Germany. Educational studies. Auerbach. Nicholas dies. 
Life at Hyeres : children. Italy. Marseilles. Paris. Paul 
de Kock. London. Herzen. Proudhon. Polikouihka. 
Auerbach again. Returns home. 

Since he took part in the Turkish war in 1854, Tolstoy 
has only twice been out of Russia. The first time was at 
the period we have now reached. On 10th Feb- 
ruary 1867 (new style) he left Moscow by post- 
chaise for Warsaw, from whence a railway already ran 
westward. He reached Paris on 21st February. There 
he met Tourgenef and Nekrasof, with the former of whom 
he was still unable to get on smoothly. "Tourgenef writes : 
*With Tolstoy I still cannot become quite intimate; we 
see things too differently ^ ; and in some moment of anger 
Tolstoy even challenged his fellow -writer to a duel.^ 
Nekrdsof appears to have patched matters up, and in 
March Tolstoy and Tourgenef went to Dijon together, 
and spent some days there. During this trip Tolstoy 
commenced his story Albert^ founded on his experience 

1 Sec Golovdtcheva-Panaeva's Rousskie PiscUeli i Ariisty, 


with the talented but drunken musician Rudolf, already 
mentioned in Chapter III. After he had returned to Paris, 
he was present at an execution, and made the following 
jotting in his Diary : 

I rose at seven o'clock and drove to see an execution. A 
stout, white, healthy neck and breast : he kissed the Gospels^ 
and then — Death. How senseless. ... I have not received 
this strong impression for naught. I am not a man of politics. 
Morals and art I know, love, and can (deal with). The 
guillotine long prevented my sleeping and obliged me to 

Tolstoy has a gift of telling the essential truth in few 
words, and never did he sum himself up better than in the 
sentences, ^ I am not a man of politics. Morals and art I 
know, love, and can.** K there be any possible doubt about 
the second sentence, there is certainly none about the first, 
as his whole life shows. 

Many years later, he wrote of this event in his Con- 
fession : 

When I saw the head separate from the body, and how they 
both thumped into the box at the same moment, I understood, 
not with my mind but with my whole being, that no theory of 
the reasonableness of our present progress can justify this deed ; 
and that though everybody from the creation of the world, on 
whatever theory, had held it to be necessary, I know it to be 
unnecessary and bad ; and therefore the arbiter of what is good 
and evil is not what people say and do, and is not progress, but 
is my heart and I. 

It was probably during this visit to Paris that Tolstoy 
witnessed and admired Chevet^s popularisation of music by 
an easy system of instruction, of which he says : 

I have seen hundreds of homy-handed working men sitting 
on benches (under which lay the tool-bags they brought from 
their work) singing at sight, and understanding and being 
interested in the laws of music. 


This eacperience he utilised later on in his school at 

In spring he went to Switzerland, and from Geneva he 
wrote to his Aunt Tati^a : 

* J'ai pass^ un mois et demi k Paris, et si agr6ablement que 
tous les jours je me suis dit, que j'ai bien fait de venir k 
r6tranger. Je suis tr^s peu all6 ni dans la soci^t^^ ni dans le 
monde littdraire, ni dans le monde des cafds et des bals publics, 
mais ma]gr6 cela j'ai trouv6 ici tant de choses nouvelles et 
int^ressantes pour moi, que tous les jours, en me couchant, je 
me dis, quel dommage que la joum^e est pass^e si vite ; je 
n'ai m6me pas eu le temps de travailler, ce que je me proposais 
de faire. 

Le pauvre Tuigenef est tr^ malade physiquement et encore 
plus moralement. Sa malheureuse liaison avec Madame Viardot, 
et sa fille, le retiennent ici dans un climat qui lui est pemicieux 
et il fait piti6 de voir. Je n'aurais jamais cru qu'il put aimer 

Tolstoy's friends Drouzhinin and V. P. Bdtkin visited 
Geneva at this time, and they all three went on a walking 
tour into Piedmont together. After that he settled at 
Clarens on the lake of Geneva, from whence he again 
wrote to Aunt Tati^a : 

18 Mai 1867. 

t Je viens de recevoir votrc lettre, ch^re tante, qui m'a trouv^e 

* I spent a month-and-a-half in Paris, and so agreeably that every 
day I said to myself that I had done well to come abroad. I went very 
little either into society or into the literary world, or into the world of 
ea/(f» and public balls ; but in spite of that I found so many things 
that were new and interesting to me, that every day on going to bed 
I said to myself, ' What a pity the day has passed so quickly.' I have 
not even had time to work, which I intended to do. 

Poor Tourgenef is very ill physically, and still more so morally. 
His daughter, and especially his unfortunate iiaiton with Madame 
Viardot, keep him here in a climate which is bad for him, and it 
makes one sad to see him. I should never have believed that he 
could be so in love. 

1 1 have just received your letter, dear Aunt, which found me, as you 


comme vous devez le savoir d'apr^s ma demi^re lettre^ aux 
environs de Geneve k Clarens dans ce m£me village, oii a 
demeur^ la Julia de Rousseau. . . . Je n'essaierai pas de vous 
depeindre la beaut6 de ce pays, surtout k pr^ent, quand tout 
est en feuilles et en fleurs; je vous dirai seulement, qu'a la 
lettre il est impossible de se detacher de ce lac et de ces 
rivages et que je passe la plus grande partie de mon temps k 
regarder et k admirer en me promenant, ou bien en me mettant 
seulement k la fen^tre de ma chambre. 

Je ne cesse de me feliciter de Tid^e que j'ai eu de quitter 
Paris et de venir passer le printemps ici^ quoique cela m'ait 
m6rit6 de votre part le reproche d'inconstance. Vraiment, je 
suis heureux, and begin to feel the advantage of having been 
bom with a caul. 

II y a ici soci6t6 charmante de russes : les Poiishkins, the 
Karamzins and the Mestch^rskys ; and they have all. Heaven 
knows why, taken to liking me ; I feel it, and the month I have 
spent here I have been so nice and good and cosy, that I am 
sad at the thought of leaving. 

From Clarens he took steamer to Montreux, and from 
there went on foot, taking with him as companion a ten- 
year-old lad named Sdsha, the son of some Russians whose 
acquaintance he had made at Clarens. They crossed the 
Pass of Jamon and, after changing their minds as to the 

must know from my last letter, at Clarens, in the neighbourhood of 
Geneva, in the same village where Rousseau's Julie lived. ... I will 
not try to depict the beauty of this country, especially at present 
when all is in leaf and flower ; I will only say that it is literally im- 
possible to detach oneself from this lake and from these banks, and 
that I spend most of my time gazing and admiring while I walk, or 
simply sit at the window of my room. 

I do not cease congratulating myself on the thought which made 
me leave Paris and come to pass the spring here, though I have 
thereby deserved your reproach for inconstancy. Truly I am happy, 
and begin to feel the advantage of having been bom witJi a caul. 

There is some charming Russian society here . . . (see English in 
letter above). 


direction they would take, findly made for Chateau d'Oex, 
from whence they proceeded by diligence to Thun. From 
that town Tolstoy went on to Lucerne, which he reached 
in July 1857. 

Again and again in his Diary and letters Tolstoy^s 
vivid delight in Nature shows itself in descriptions of tiie 
scenery : ^ It is wonderful,^ he writes, ^ but I was at Clarens 
for two months, and every time — when in the morning, 
and especially after dinner towards evening — I opened the 
shutters on which the shadows were already falling, and 
glanced at the lake and the distant blue of the mountains 
reflected in it, the beauty blinded me and acted on me 
with the force of a surprise/ But together with this keen 
appreciation, comes now and then a sort of protest that 
this grandiose Swiss mountain scenery is, after all, not the 
Nature that most appeals to him — a yearning for the vast 
steppes and forests of his native land. After ascending 
the Pass of Jamon and describing the magnificent scenery 
and the pleasure of the climb, he adds : 

It was something beautiful, even unusually beautiful, but I do 
not love what are called magnificent and remarkable views: 
they are, as it were, cold. ... I love Nature when, though it 
surrounds me on all sides and extends unendingly, I am part of 
it. I love it, when on all sides I am surrounded by hot air, and 
that same air rolls away to unending distance, and those same 
sappy leaves of grass which I cnish as I sit on them, form the 
green of the boundless meadows; when those same leaves 
which, fluttering in the wind, run their shadows across my face, 
form also the dark blue of the distant forests ; while the same 
air one breathes makes the deep, light blue of the immeasur- 
able sky ; when you do not exult and rejoice alone in Nature, 
but when around you myriads of insects buzz and whirl, and 
beetles, clinging together, creep about, and all around you 
birds overflow with song. 

But this is bare, cold, desolate, grey plateau ; and somewhere 
afar there is something beautiful veiled with mist. But that 
something is so distant that I do not feel the chief delight of 


Nature — do not feel myself a part of that endless and beautiful 
distance : it is foreign to me. 

From Lucerne he writes : 

* Je suis de nouveau tout seul^ et je vous avouerai que tr^ 
souvent la solitude m'est p6nible, car les connaissances qu'on 
fait dans les h6tels et en chemin de fer ne sont pas des 
ressources ; mais cet isolement a du moins le bon c6t6 de me 
pousser au travail. Je travaille un peu, mais cela va mal^ 
comme d'ordinaire en 6t6, 

It was here that the incident occurred described in 
Lucerne, a sketch published in the September number of 
the Contemporary that same year, and one which in its 
fierce castigation of the rich is a precursor of much that 
he wrote thirty years later. Especially the conduct of the 
wealthy English tourists roused his ire. The particular 
incident the story deals with is this : 

On 7 July 1857, in Lucerne, in front of the Schweizerhof 
Hotel, where the richest people stay, an itinerant mendicant- 
singer sang songs and played his guitar for half- an -hour. 
About a hundred people listened to him. Three times the 
singer asked them to give him something, but not one of them 
did so, and many laughed at him. 

This is not fiction, but a positive fact, which any one who 
cares may verify by asking the permanent inhabitants of the 
Schweizerhof, and by looking up the newspaper lists of foreign 
visitors at the Schweizerhof on 7 July. 

It is an event which the historians of our times should 
inscribe in indelible letters of fire. 

In the story, Prince Nehludof, indignant at such treat- 
ment of a man who was a real artist and whose songs all 

"^ I am again all alone, and I confess that very often the solitude is 
painful to me, for the acquaintanceships one makes in hotels and on 
the railways are not a resource. But there is at least this much good 
in this loneliness — it prompts me to work. I am working a little, 
but it goes badly, as usual in summer. 


had enjoyed, brought the singer into the hotel and treated 
him to a bottle of wine. He goes on to ask himself : 

Which is more a man, and which more a barbarian : the lord 
who, on seeing the singer's worn-out clothes, angrily left the 
table, and for his service did not give him a millionth part of 
his property, and who now sits satiated, in a well-lit, comfort- 
able room, calmly discussing the affairs of China and approving 
the murders that are being committed there — or the little 
singer who with a franc in his pocket, risking imprisonment, 
has tramped over hill and dale for twenty years, harming no 
one but cheering many by his songs, and whom they insulted 
to-day and all but turned out, leaving him — weary, hungry and 
humiliated — to make his bed somewhere on rotting straw ? 

After passing a few weeks at Lucerne, Tolstoy returned 
to Russia vid Stuttgart, Berlin, and Stettin, from which 
port he took steamer to Petersburg, and after staying a 
week there to see Nekr^Lsof and meet his colleagues of 
the Contemporary^ he went through Moscow to Yasnaya, 
where he arrived in August. In his Diary we find this 

This is how, on my journey, 1 planned my future occupa- 
tions : first, literary work ; next, family duties ; then, estate 
management. But the estate I must leave as far as possible 
to the steward, softening him and making improvements, and 
spending only Rs. 2000 a year [then equal to about £270], and 
using the rest for the serfs. Above all, my stumbling-block is 
Liberal vanity. To live for oneself and do a good deed a day, 
is sufficient. 

Further on he says : ^ Self-sacrifice does not lie in saying 
" Take what you like from me,'' but in labouring and 
thinking, and contriving how to give oneself.' 

At this time he read (in translation) the Iliad and the 
Gk)spels, which both impressed him greatly. ^ I have 
finished reading the indescribably beautiful end of the 
Iliady he notes, and expresses his regret that there is no 
connection between those two wonderful works. 


In October he first accompanied his brother Nicholas 
and his sister Mary to Moscow, and then spent a few days 
in Petersburg, where he found that he had been forgotten 
by a world absorbed in the great measures of public 
reform then in course of preparation. Here is a sentence 
from his Diary : 

Petersburg at first mortified me and then put me right. My 
reputation has fallen and hardly gives a squeak, and I felt 
much hurt ; but now I am tranquil. I know I have something 
to say and strength to say it strongly ; and the public may then 
say what it will. But I must work conscientiously^ exerting all 
my powers ; then ... let them spit upon the altar. 

By the end of October (old style) he was back in 
Moscow, established in furnished apartments in the 
Pydtnitsky Street, with his sister and his brother Nicholas. 
His friend Fet was also in Moscow at this time, and in his 
Recollections makes frequent mention of the Tolstoys. He 
tells us that the Countess Mary (who was an accomplished 
pianist) used to come to his house for music in the 
evenings, accompanied sometimes by both her brothers and 
sometimes by Nicholas alone, who would say : 

^ Lydvotchka has again donned his evening clothes and 
white necktie, and gone to a ball.** 

Tolstoy's elegance in dress was very noticeable at this 
period. We read of the grey beaver collar of his overcoat, 
of a fashionable cane he carried, and of the glossy hat he 
wore placed on one side, as well as of his curly, dark-brown 

Gymnastics were fashionable in Moscow in those days, 
and any one wishing to find Tolstoy between one and two 
o^clock in the afternoon, could do so at the Gymnasium on 
the Great Dmitrovka Street, where, dressed in gymnastic 
attire, he might be seen intent on springing over the 
vaulting-horse without upsetting a cone placed on its back. 
He always was expert at physical exercises : a first-rate 


horseman, quick at all games and sports, a swimmer, and 
an excellent skater. 

Among the visitors Fet met at Tolstoy's house we note 
the name of Saltykof, who under the pseudonym of 
Stchedrin is known as one of the keenest and most powerful 
of Russia's satirists, and who during the last seven years 
of the reign of Nicholas I had lived in banishment in the 
far-off town of Vydtka. Another guest was B. N. Tchiterin, 
philosopher and jurist, and author of works on Science and 
Religion^ Property and the State^ and other subjects 
Tolstoy dealt with three or four decades later. Katk()f, 
editor of the Moscow Gazette and monthly Russian 
Messenger^ was another acquaintance ; and in his magazine 
some of Tolstoy's writings appeared. 

In January 1858 Tolstoy's aunt, who had been a friend 
of his boyhood, the Countess Alexandra A. Tolstoy, Maid 
of Honour to the Grand Duchess Marya Niko- 
Idyevna, came to Moscow. Through this aunt 
(who lived to a great age, and died only a few years ago) 
Tolstoy used to receive information of what went on at 
Court, and was sometimes able indirectly to exert influence 
* in the highest circles.' When she returned to Petersburg 
Tolstoy accompanied her as far as the town of Klin, on the 
Nicholas railway, and took the opportunity to visit the 
Princess Volkdnsky (a cousin of his mother's), who had a 
small estate in those parts. He remained some weeks with 
this affectionate old lady, who told him much about his 
mother and her family, and he greatly enjoyed his quiet 
stay with her. At her house he wrote Three Deaths^ which 
appeared the following January in The Readmg Library. 
It is an admirably written study of the deaths of a ricli 
lady, a poor post-horse driver, and a tree. 

In February he returned to Ydsnaya Polydna; then 
again visited Moscow, and in March spent a fortnight in 
Petersburg. His love of music reasserted itself strongly 
at this period; and in conjunction with V. P. Bdtkin, 


Perfilief, Mortier (his late rival in love) and others, he 
founded the Moscow Musical Society, which ultimately 
resulted in the formation of the Moscow Conservatoire 
of which Nicholas Rubenstein became Director. 

One of Tolstoy^s most intimate acquaintances at this 
period was S. T. Aksdkof, author of anti-serfdom stories, 
lover of hunting and fishing, and father of two famous 
sons, both prominent Slavophil leaders. 

The invigorating influence of spring shows itself in a 
letter Tolstoy wrote about this time to his aunt, the 
Countess A. A. Tolstoy (whom he calls * Grandma ') : 

Grandma ! — Spring ! 

For good people it is excellent to live in the world ; and even 
for such men as me, it is sometimes good. In Nature, in the 
air, in everything, is hope, future^ — an attractive future. . . . 
Sometimes one deceives oneself and thinks that happiness and 
a future await not only Nature but oneself also, and then one 
feels happy. I am now in such a state, and with characteristic 
egotism hasten to write to you of things that interest only me. 
When I review things sanely, I know very well that I am an 
old, frozen little potato, and one already boiled with sauce ; but 
spring so acts on me that I sometimes catch myself in the full 
blaze of imagining myself a plant which with others has only 
now blossomed; and which will peacefully, simply, and joyfully 
grow in God's world. The result is that at this time of year, 
such an internal clearing-out goes on in me, such a cleansing 
and ordering, as only those who have experienced this feeling 
can imagine. All the old — away ! All worldly conventions, 
all idleness, all egotism, all vices, all confused indefinite attach- 
ments, all regrets, even repentances — away with you all ! . . . 
Make room for the wonderful little flowers whose buds are 
swelling and growing with the spring ! . . . 

After much more he concludes : 

Farewell, dear Grandma, do not be angry with me for this 
nonsense, but answer with a word of wisdom, imbued with kind- 
ness, Christian kindness ! I have long wished to say that for 


you it is pleasanter to write French, and I understand feminine 
thoughts better in French. 

In April he was again at Ydsnaya where, in spite of 
repeated visits to Moscow, he spent most of the summer. 
There was at this time no railway from Moscow southward 
to Toula ; and the serfs^ belief concerning the new tele- 
graph posts which stood by the side of the highroad, was 
that when the wire had been completed, ^ Freedom ^ would 
be sent along it from Petersburg. Even Tatidna Alexto- 
drovna ^rgolsky did not understand these new-fangled 
things, and, when driving along the road one day, asked 
Tolstoy to explain how letters were written by telegraph. 
He told her as simply as he could how the telegraphic 
apparatus works, and received the reply : * Oat, otiijje com- 
prendSf mon cher ! ^ How much she had really understood 
was however shown half an hour later when, after keeping 
her eye on the wire all that time, she inquired : ^ But how 
is it, mon cher Uon^ that during a whole half-hour I have 
not seen a single letter go along the telegraph ? ^ 

Fet and his wife used to stay a day or two at YAsnaya 
when journeying to and from Moscow, and Fefs account 
of Aunt Tatidna accords with Tolstoy'^s own affectionate 
recollections of that lady. Fet says that he and his wife 
* made the acquaintance of Tolstoy'^s charming old aunt, 
Tati^a Alexdndrovna Ergolsky, who received us with that 
old-world affability which puts one at once at one's ease 
on entering a new house. She did not devote herself to 
memories of times long past, but lived fully in the present." 

Speaking of them all by their pet names, she mentioned 
that ^ Serydzhenka Tolstoy had gone to his home at Piro- 
gcSvo, but Nikdlenka would probably stay a bit longer in 
Moscow with Mdshenka, but LycSvotchka^s friend Dydkof 
had recently visited them,^ and so on. 

Many years later, Tolstoy jotted down his memories of 
the long autumn and winter evenings spent with Aunt 


Tatidna to which, he says, he owed his best thoughts and 
impulses. He would sit in his arm-chair reading, thinking, 
and occasionally listening to her kindly and gentle con- 
versation with two of the servants : Natilya Petrdvna (an 
old woman who lived there not because she was of much 
use, but because she had nowhere else to live) and a maid 

The chief charm of that life lay in the absence of any 
material care ; in good relations with those nearest — relations no 
one could spoil ; and in the leisureliness and the unconscious- 
ness of flying time. . . . 

When, after living badly at a neighbour's in Toiila, with cards^ 
gipsies, huntings and stupid vanity, I used to return home and 
come to her, by old habit we used to kiss each other's hand^ 
I her dear energetic hand, and she my dirty, vicious hand ; and 
also by old habit^ we greeted one another in French, and I 
would joke with Natalya Petr6vna, and would sit down in the 
comfortable arm-chair. She knew well all I had been doing 
and regretted it, but never reproached me^ retaining always the 
same gentleness and love. ... I was once telling her how some 
one's wife had gone away with another man, and I said the 
husband ought to be glad to be rid of her. And suddenly my 
aunt lifted her eyebrows and said, as a thing long decided in 
her mind^ that that would be wrong of the husband, because it 
would completely ruin the wife. After that she told me of a 
drama that had occurred among the serfs. Then she re-read a 
letter from my sister Mashenka, whom she loved if not more, 
at least as much as she loved me, and she spoke of Masha's 
husband (her own nephew) not to condemn him, but with grief 
for the sorrow he inflicted on Mdshenka. . . . The chief char- 
acteristic of her life, which involuntarily infected me, was her 
wonderful, general kindliness to every one without exception. 
I try to recall a single instance of her being angry, or speaking 
a sharp word, or condemning any one, and I cannot recall one 
such instance in the course of thirty years. She spoke well 
of our real aunt, who had bitterly hurt her by taking us away 
from her. ... As to her kindly treatment of the servants — 



that goes without saying. She had grown up in the idea that 
there are masters and servants, but she utilised her authority 
only to serve them. . . . She never blamed me directly for my 
evil life, though she suffered on my account. My brother 
Sergey, too, whom also she loved warmly, she did not reproach 
even when he took a gipsy girl to live with him. The only 
shade of disquietude she showed on our account was that, when 
he was very late in returning home, she would say : ' What has 
become of our Sergius ? ' Only Sergius instead of Serydzha. . . . 
She never told us in words how to live, never preached to us. 
All her moral work was done internally ; externally one only 
saw her deeds — and not even deeds : there were no deeds ; but 
all her life, peacefiil, sweet, submissive and loving, not troubled 
or self-satisfied, but a life of quiet, unobtrusive love. . . . Her 
affectionateness and tranquillity made her society noticeably 
attractive and gave a special charm to intimacy with her. I 
know of no case where she offended any one, and of no one who 
did not love her. She never spoke of herself, never of religion 
or of what we ought to believe, or of how she believed or 
prayed. She believed everything, except that she rejected one 
dogma — that of eternal torment. ' Dieu, qui est la hordi meme, 
ne peiU pas vouloir nos souffrances' ^. . . She often called me by 
my father's name (Nicholas) and this pleased me very much, 
because it showed that her conceptions of me and of my father 
mingled in her love of us both. 

It was not her love for me alone that was joyous. What was 
joyous was the atmosphere of love to all who were present or 
absent, alive or dead, and even to animals. . . . 

After telling of her goodness and her affection Tolstoy 
says in his Memoirs that, though he appreciated his happi- 
ness with her, he did not at the time nearly realise its full 
value ; and he adds : 

She was fond of keeping sweets: figs, gingerbreads and dates, 
in various jars in her room. I cannot forget, nor remember 
without a cruel pang of remorse, that I repeatedly refused her 
money she wanted for such things and how she, sighing sadly, 

^ God, who is goodness itself, cannot desire our pain. 


remained silent. It is true I was in need of money, but I 
cannot now remember without horror that I refused her. 

Again in another place, after mentioning her self-devo- 
tion, he says : 

And it was to her^ to her, that I refused the small pleasure 
of having figs and chocolate (and not so much for herself as to 
treat me) and of being able to give a trifle to those who begged 
of her. . . . Dead^ dear Aunty^ forgive me ! Sijeunesse savait, 
si vieillesse poiwait [if youth but knew^ if age but could], I mean 
not in the sense of the good lost for oneself in youth, but in the 
sense of the good not given and the evil done to those who are 
no more. 

Of Leo'^s life at Y^naya at this time, his brother 
Nicholas gave Fet the following humorous account : 

Ly6votchka is zealously trying to become acquainted with 
peasant life and with farmings of both of which, like the rest of 
us, he has till now had but a superficial knowledge. But I am 
not sure what sort of acquaintance will result from his efforts : 
Ly6votchka wants to get hold of everything at once, without 
omitting anything — even his gymnastics. So he has rigged 
up a bar under his study window. And of course, apart from 
prejudice, with which he wages such fierce war, he is right : 
gymnastics do not interfere with farming ; but the steward sees 
things differently and says, ' One comes to the master for orders, 
and he hangs head downward in a red jacket, holding on by 
one knee to a perch, and swings himself. His hair hangs down 
and blows about, the blood comes to his face, and one does not 
know whether to listen to his orders or to be astonished at him ! ' 

Lyovotchka is delighted with the way the serf Ufin sticks 
out his arms when ploughing ; and so Ufan has become for him 
an emblem of village strength, like the legendary Michael ; and 
he himself, sticking his elbows out wide, takes to the plough 
and ' Ufanizes.' 

In May 1858 Tolstoy wrote to Fet: 

Dearest little Uncle [as we might say. Dear old Boy] ! — 
I write two words merely to say that I embrace you with all my 


might, have received your letter^ kiss the hand of M^a Pet- 
nSvna [Fet's wife] and make obeisance to you all. Aunty thanks 
you very much for your message and bows to you, so also does 
my sister. What a wonderful spring it has been and is ! I, in 
solitude, have tasted it admirably. Brother Nicholas must be 
at Nik61sk. Catch him and do not let him go. I want to come 
to see you this month. Tourg^nef has gone to Winzig till 
August to cure his bladder. 

Devil take him. I am tired of loving him. He deserts us, 
and won't cure his bladder. 

Now good-bye, dear friend. If you have no poem ready 
for me by the time I come, I shall proceed to squeeze one 
out of you. — Your Count L. Tolstoy. 

Another letter to Fet runs : 

Ay, old fellow, ahoy ! First, you give no sign, though it is 
spring and you know we are all thinking of you, and that I, 
like Prometheus, am bound to a rock, yet thirst for sight or 
sound of you. You should either come, or at least send us a 
proper invitation. Secondly, you have retained my brother, 
and a very good brother, sumamed 'Firdusi' [an allusion to 
Nicholas's Oriental wisdom]. The chief culprit in this matter, 
I suspect, is MArya Petrovna, to whom I humbly bow, request- 
ing her to return us our own brother. Jesting apart, he bids 
me let you know that he will be here next week. Drouzhfnin 
will also come, so mind you come too, old fellow. 

The first record of any participation by Tolstoy in 
political affairs relates to the preparations for the Emanci- 
pation of the serfs. Immediately after the conclusion of 
the Crimean war Alexander 11, addressing the Marshals 
of the Nobility, in Moscow, had said : * The existing 
manner of possessing serfs cannot remain unchanged. It 
is better to abolish serfdom from above than to await the 
time when it will begin to abolish itself from below. I 
request you, gentlemen, to consider how this can be done, 
and to submit my words to the Nobility for their con- 
sideration.'' Some time passed without any definite re- 


sponse to this appeal, and meanwhile the Polish nobility 
of the Lithuanian Provinces, dissatisfied with certain regu- 
lations enacted in the previous reign, incautiously asked to 
have them revised. The Government grasped the oppor- 
tunity, and treating this as the expression of a wish for 
Emancipation, replied that ^ the abolition of serfdom must 
be effected not suddenly, but gradually,' and authorised 
the Nobility to form Committees for the preparation of 
definite projects to that end. Four days later the Minister 
of the Interior, acting on secret orders from the Emperor, 
sent a circular to all the Governors and Marshals of the 
Nobility in Russia proper, stating that the Lithuanian 
nobles ^had recognised the necessity of liberating the 
peasants,' and that Hhis noble intention' had afforded 
peculiar satisfaction to His Majesty, and explaining the 
principles to be observed in case the nobles of other 
Provinces should express a similar desire. A few weeks 
later the Emperor publicly expressed a hope that, with the 
co-operation of his nobles, the work of Emancipation 
would be successfully accomplished. It therefore became 
quite evident that, whether the nobles liked it or not. 
Emancipation was at hand; since the Emperor had, at 
last, definitely ranged himself on the side of the Emancipa- 
tionists. By accepting the invitation to co-operate in the 
preparation of the scheme, there appeared to be a chance 
that the nobles might so shape the measure that their 
interests would not suffer; and consequently, during 1858, 
a Committee was chosen in almost every Province of Central 
Russia. Among the rest a Meeting of the Nobility of the 
Government of Toiila was fixed for the first of September, to 
elect Deputies to the Committee for the Improvement of the 
Condition of the Peasants. Tolstoy attended this meeting, 
and together with one hundred and four fellow-nobles signed 
a document stating that * with the object of improving the 
condition of the peasants, preserving the property of the 
landowners, and securing the safety of both the one and 


the other, we consider it necessary that the peasants should 
be liberated not otherwise than with an allotment of a 
certain amount of land in hereditary possession, and that 
the landowners should receive for the land they give up, 
full, equitable, pecuniary recompense by means of such 
financial measures as will not entail any obligatory re- 
lations between peasants and proprietors, — ^relations which 
the Nobility consider it necessary to terminate.' 

There is no indication that Tolstoy took any prominent 
part in this meeting ; and the resolution just quoted, while 
approving of Emancipation, seems to attach at least equal 
importance to securing full compensation for the land- 
owners. Explain it how one may, the fact remains that 
while the Ccyniemporart/y and all that was progressive in 
Russian literature, was preoccupied with the effort to help 
to shape the reforms so that they might really attain the 
ends aimed at, Tolstoy almost retired from the scene, and 
hardly appeared aware of the movement going on around 
him. The battle for freedom was fought in the press by 
Tchemysh^vsky, Eoshelef, and N. Samarin, by Herzen, and 
by many others, including Nekrdsof and SaltykcSf ; and 
Tolstoy's indifference helps to explain the fact, already 
alluded to, that during these years the critics ignored 
him, though his artistic power continued to increase. His 
friend Fet also took no part in the Emancipation move- 
ment ; being in fact rather opposed to it. 

On 24th October 1858 Tolstoy writes to Fet : 

To write stories is stupid and shameful. To write verses — 
well, write them ; but to love a good man is very pleasant. 
Yet perhaps, against my will and intention^ not I, but an 
unripe story inside me, compels rae to love you. It sometimes 
seems like that. Do what one will amid the manure and the 
mange, one somehow begins to compose. Thank heaven, I 
have not yet allowed myself to write, and will not do so. . . . 
Thank you exceedingly for your trouble about a veterinar}'. I 
have found one in Toiila and have begun the cure, but I do 


not know what will come of it. — And^ may the devil take them 
all^ — Drouzhinin is appealing to me as a matter of friendship 
to write a story. I really want to. I will spin such a yam 
that there will be no head or tail to it. . . . But joking apart, 
how is your Hafiz getting on.^ [Fet was translating some 
poems by Hafiz.] Turn it which way you will^ the height of 
wisdom and fortitude for me is to enjoy the poetry of others, 
and not to let my own in ugly garb loose among men, but to 
consume it myself with my daily bread. But at times one 
suddenly wishes to be a great man, and it is so annoying that 
this has not yet come about! One even hurries to get up 
quicker or to finish dinner in order to begin. . . . Send me a 
poem, the healthiest of those you have translated from Hafiz, 
me faire venir teau d la houehe} and I will send you a sample of 
wheat Hunting has bored me to death. The weather is 
excellent, but I do not hunt alone. 

In company, Tolstoy was however a keen sportsman, 
and in December 1858 nearly lost his life while out 
bear-shooting. He has told the story, with some em- 
bellishments, in one of the tales for children contained 
in the volume, Twenty-ihree Tales} The real facts were 
these : 

Tolstoy and his brother Nicholas had made the acquaint- 
ance of S. S. Gromeka, a well-known publicist who shared 
their fondness for hunting — a sport very different in Russia 
from what it is in England, as readers of ToIstoy^s descrip- 
tions well know. 

Gromeka having heard that a she-bear with two young 
ones had her lair in the forest near the railway at Volo- 
tchok, half-way between Petersburg and Moscow, arranged 
matters with the peasants of that locality, and invited the 
Tolstoys and other guests to a hunt. The invitation was 
accepted, and on Slst December Leo Tolstoy shot a bear. 
On 22nd the members of the party, each armed with two 
gons, were placed at the ends of cuttings running through 

^ To make my mouth water. 

• Included in the World's Classics, 


the forest in which the big she-bear had been surrounded. 
These paths or cuttings divided the wood like the lines 
of a chess-board. Peasants employed as beaters were 
stationed to prevent the animal escaping except by 
approaching one or other of the sportsmen. Ost^hkof, a 
famous professional huntsman, supervised the proceedings. 
The guests were advised to stamp down the snow around 
them, so as to give themselves room to move freely ; but 
Tolstoy (with his usual objection to routine methods) 
argued that as they were out to shoot the bear and not 
to box with her, it was useless to tread down the snow. 
He therefore stood with his two-barrelled gun in his hand, 
surrounded by snow almost up to his waist. 

The bear, roused by the shouts of Ostdshkof, rushed 
down a cutting directly towards one of the other sports- 
men ; but, perceiving him, she suddenly swerved from her 
course and took a cross path which brought her out on to 
the cutting leading straight to Tolstoy. He, not ex- 
pecting the bear, did not fire until the beast was within 
six yards, and his first shot missed. The bear was only 
two yards from him when his second shot hit her in the 
mouth. It failed to stop her rush, and she knocked 
Tolstoy over on to his back in the snow. Carried past 
him at first by her own impetus, the bear soon returned ; 
and the next thing Tolstoy knew was that he was 
being weighed down by something heavy and warm, and 
he then felt that his face was being drawn into the 
beasts mouth. He could only offer a passive resistance, 
by drawing down his head as much as possible between 
his shoulders and trying to present his cap instead of his 
face to the bear'^s teeth. This state of things lasted only 
a few seconds, yet long enough for the bear, after one or 
two misses, to get her teeth into the flesh above and 
below his left eye. At this moment Ostdshkof, armed 
with a small switch, came running up, shouting at the 
bear : * Where are you getting to ? Where are you 


getting to ? ' At which the beast took fright, and rushed 
off. Next day she was followed up and killed. Owing 
to the amount of blood and torn flesh, Tolstoy^s wound at 
first appeared serious ; but when it had been washed with 
snow, and he had been taken to the nearest town and 
had had it sewn up, it turned out to be superficial. He 
long retained a very noticeable scar however as a memento 
of the encounter. 

Family Happiness^ which Tolstoy had been writing 
during 1858, was published early in 1859. It grew out 
of the unsuccessful love affair mentioned in the last chapter, 
and is Tolstoy''s imaginative description of what might 
have been. 

The first months of 1859 he spent in Moscow, where 
on 4th February he delivered an address on the occasion 
of his joining the Moscow Society of Lovers of 
Russian Literature. This was the first of the three 
times that Tolstoy has spoken formally in public : a task 
for which, he once told me, he had no aptitude, and which 
he much disliked. He wrote out his speech, which was to 
have appeared in the Proceedings of the Society ; but for 
some reason it never got printed. Its subject was * The 
Supremacy of the Artistic Element in Literature,' and in 
it he maintained a position almost the opposite of the one 
he advocated in What is Art ? forty years later. 

He was answered by the Slavophil A. S. Homyak6f, 
who presided at the meeting, and who in the course of 
his remarks said : 

Allow me to remark that the justice of the opinion you have 
so skilfully stated is far from destroying the legitimacy of the 
temporary and exceptional side of literature. That which is 
always rights that which is always beautiful^ that which is as 
unalterable as the most fundamental laws of the soul^ un- 
doubtedly holds^ and should hold^ the first place in the thoughts, 
the impulses, and therefore in the speech of man. It, and it 
alone, will be handed on by generation to generation and by 


nation to nation as a precious inheritance. But on the other 
hand^ in the nature of man and of society there is continual 
need for self-indictment. There are moments^ moments im- 
portant in history^ when that self-indictment acquires a special 
and indefeasible rights and manifests itself in literature with 
great definiteness and keenness. . . . 

The rights of literature the servant of eternal beauty^ do not 
destroy the rights of the literature of indictment^ which always 
accompanies social deficiencies and sometimes appears as the 
healer of social evils. . . . 

Of course^ Art is perfectly free : it finds its justification and 
its aim in itself. But the freedom of Art in the abstract^ has 
nothing to do with the inner life of the artist. An artist is 
not a theory — a sphere of thought and mental activity — but a 
man^ and always a man of his own times^ usually its best 
representative^ completely imbued with its spirit and its defined 
or nascent aspirations. By the very impressionability of his 
nature, without which he could not be an artist, he, even more 
than others, receives all the painful as well as joyous sensations 
of the society to which he is born. . . . 

So the writer^ a servant of pure art, sometimes becomes an 
accuser even unconsciously, and despite his own will. I allow 
myself. Count, to cite you as an example. You consciously 
follow a definite road faithfully and undeviatingly ; but are you 
really completely alien to the literature of indictment } Were 
it but in the picture of a consumptive post-boy, dying on top 
of a stove amid a crowd oi^ comrades apparently indifferent to 
his sufferings [this refers to Three Deallix] have you not indi- 
cated some social disease, some evil.'* When describing that 
death, is it possible that you did not suffer from the homy 
indifference of good but unawakened human souls ? Yes, you 
too have been and will be an involuntary indicter ! 

This question of the true position of literary art and 
its relation to the rest of life, was one which occupied 
Tolstoy for many years, and on which before the century 
closed he expressed himself in a book which must be 
reckoned with by all who may hereafter deal with the sub- 
ject. The attitude he maintained at the time he entered 


the Society of Lovers of Russian Literature, was in striking 
contrast with that of the Slavophils, such as Homyakdf, 
and of the great majority of the leading Russian writers 
of that day, who were fired with the hope of Emancipation, 
just as in America at the same time, Lowell, Emerson, 
Whittier, Thoreau, Walt Whitman, Longfellow, Channing, 
Lloyd Garrison, and others, were stirred by the Anti- 
Slavery movement. 

In April Tolstoy went to Petersburg and spent ten 
days very pleasantly with his aunt the Countess A. A. 
Tolstoy. By the end of the month he was back at Ydsnaya. 
In July, Tourgenef, from France, wrote Fet a long letter in 
blank verse, a few lines of which indicate the relation between 
Leo Tolstoy and himself at this time : 

* Kiss Nicholas Tolstoy on my behalf 
And to his brother Leo make my bow, 
— As to his sister also. 
He rightly says in his postscriptum : 
*^ There is no cause ^ for me to write to him, 
Indeed, I know he bears me little love 
And I love him as little. Too differently 
Are mixed those elements of which we're formed." 

During this winter Tolstoy devoted much time to an 
attempt to organise schools on and near his estate. The 
education of its peasant children was one of the 1359. 
things Russia most needed, and most terribly I860 
neglected. Tolstoy recognised this, and set himself strenu- 
ously and eagerly to show how the great need could be met. 
The work he did at this time was, however, only prelimi- 
nary to what he undertook after his next visit to Western 
Europe, and he was far from being mentally at peace. At 
the commencement of the New Year he noted in his Diary : 
^ The burden of the estate, the burden of bachelor life, and 
all sorts of doubts and pessimistic feelings agitate my 


One mention of the serfb (who were now nearing free- 
dom) occurs in a letter Tolstoy wrote to Fet on 23rd 
February 1860, in reply to a note in which the latter had 
expressed a wish to buy an estate, settle down in the 
country, and devote himself to farming. Tolstoy replies that 
there is an estate for sale adjoining his own, containing : 

Four hundred desyatins of good land with, unfortunately ^ 
seventy souls of bad serfs. But that does not matter; they 
will gladly pay quit-rent [in lieu of personal service] as mine 
do, at the rate of Rs. 30 a tyaglo [man and wife with an allot- 
ment of land] or Rs. 660 for the twenty-two tyaglos, and you 
will get not less than that, if not more, at the Emancipation, 
and M'ill have sufficient unexhausted land and meadow led 
to yield about Rs. 2000 a year, or over Rs. 2600 in all. The 
price asked for the estate is Rs. 24,000, besides a mortgage 
of about Rs. 5000. ... At any rate it would be a good bargain 
to buy it for Rs. 20,000. . . . The seller is an old man who is 
ruined, and wants to sell it quickly in order to get rid of his 
son-in-law. He has twice sent to offer it me. The above 
calculation shows what the estate should yield in a couple of 
years' time if about Rs. 5000 be spent on improving it ; but 
even in its present condition one can answer for a return of 
Rs. 1500, which is more than 7 per cent, on the cost 

In Russia to buy serfs was not then considered more dis- 
creditable than it is in England to-day to buy shares in a 
china or match factory ; and in the same letter Tolstoy 
goes on to discuss literature : 

I have read Tourg^nef s On the Eve, This is my opinion : 
to write novels is undesirable, especially for people who are 
depressed and do not well know what they want from life. 
However, On the Eve is much better than A Nest of Gentlefolk, 
and there are in it excellent negative characters : the artist and 
Uie father. The rest are not types ; even their conception, 
their position, is not typical, or they are quite insignificant. 
That however is always Tourg^nefs mistake. The girl is hope- 
lessly bad : * Ah, how I love thee . . . her eyelashes were long.' 


In general it always surprises me that Tourg^nef» with his 
mental powers and poetic sensibility, should even in his 
methods not be able to refrain from banality. This banality 
shows itself most of all in his negative methods, which recall 
Gogol. There is no humanity or sympathy for the characters, 
but the author exhibits monsters whom he scolds and does not 
pity. This jars painfully with the tone and intention of 
Liberalism in everything else. It was all very well in the days 
of Tsar Goroh [a character in a fairy story] or of Gogol (though 
if one does not pity even the most insignificant of one's charac- 
ters, one should scold them so that the heavens grow hot, or 
laugh at them so that one's sides split, and not as our splenetic 
and dyspeptic Tourgenef does. On the whole, however, there 
is now no one else who could write such a novel, though it will 
not meet with success. 

OstnSvsky's Thunder is, in my opinion, a wretched work, but 
will be successful. Not Ostrovsky and Tourgenef are to blame, 
but the times. . . . Something else is now needed : not that 
we should learn and criticise, but that we should teach Jack 
and Jill at least a little of what we know. 

This letter to Fet, who was in Moscow, ends with re- 
quests to procure some books, including a veterinary hand- 
book, a veterinary instrument, and a lancet for use on 
human beings ; to see about procuring six ploughs of a 
special make, and to find out the price of clover and 
timothy-grass, of which Tolstoy had some to sell. 

At this time Tolstoy worked at his story The CosstickSy 
the plan of which he had sketched out in 1852, 

1 860 

but which he did not complete till 1862. 

One comes across notes in his Diary which indicate his 
state of mind at this period with regard to religion. After 
reading a book on Materialism he notes : 

I thought of prayer. To what can one pray ? What is God, 
imagined so clearly that one can ask him to communicate with 
us ? If I imagine such an one, he loses all grandeur for me. 
A God whom one can beseech and whom one can serve — is the 


expression of mental weakness. He is God, because I cannot 
grasp his being. Indeed^ he is not a Being, but a Law and 
a Force. 

He was a great puzzle to his friends and acquaintances 
— always ready to take his own line strenuously, yet some- 
times far from sure what that line was. Tourgenef wrote 

Leo Tolstoy continues his eccentricities. Evidently it was so 
decreed at his birth. When will he turn his last somersault and 
stand on his feet ? 

The fact that Tolstoy, like his friend Fet, was neglecting 
literature did not fail to call forth many remonstrances, 
one of the most urgent of which came to him from Drouz- 
hinin, who wrote : 

Every writer has his moments of doubt and self-dissatis- 
faction, and however strong and legitimate this feeling may be, 
no one on that account has yet ceased his connection with 
literature ; every one goes on writing to the end. But all 
tendencies, good or bad, cling to you with peculiar obstinacy ; 
so that you, more than others, need to think of this and to con- 
sider the whole matter amicably. 

First of all, remember that after poetry and mental labour 
all other work seems worthless. Qui a bu, boira ; and at the 
age of thirty to tear oneself away from authorship means losing 
half the interest of life. But that is only half the matter; 
there is something still more important. 

On all of us lies a responsibility rooted in the immense 
importance of literature to Russian society. An Englishman or 
an American may laugh at the fact that in Russia not merely 
men of thirty, but grey-haired owners of 2000 serfs sweat 
over stories of a hundred pages, which appear in the magazines, 
are devoured by everybody, and arouse discussion in society 
for a whole day. However much artistic quality may have to 
do with this result, you cannot explain it merely by Art. What 
in other lands is a matter of idle talk and careless dilettantism, 
with us is quite another affair. Among us things have taken 


such shape that a story — the most frivolous and insignificant 
form of literature — becomes one of two things: either it is 
rubbish, or else it is the voice of a leader sounding throughout 
the Empire. For instance, we all know Tourgenef's weakness, 
but a whole ocean divides the most insignificant of his stories 
from the very best of Mrs. Eugene Tour's, with her half-talent. 
By some strange instinct the Russian public has chosen from 
among the crowd of writers four or ^we bell-men whom it 
values as leaders, refusing to listen to any qualifications or 
deductions. You — partly by talent, partly by the practical 
qualities of your soul, and partly owing simply to a concurrence 
of fortunate circumstances — have stepped into this favourable 
relation with the public. On that account you must not go 
away and hide, but must work, even to the exhaustion of your 
strength and powers. That is one side of the matter ; but here 
is another. You are a member of a literary circle that is 
honourable (as far as may be), independent, and influential; 
and which for ten years, amid persecutions and misfortunes, 
and notwithstanding its members' vices, has firmly upheld the 
banner of all that is Liberal and enlightened, and has borne all 
this weight of abuse without committing one mean action. In 
spite of the world's coldness and ignorance and its contempt 
for literature, this circle is rewarded with honour and moral 
influence. Of course, there are in it insignificant and even 
stupid homunculi ; but even they play a part in the general 
union, and have not been useless. In that circle you again, 
though you arrived but recently, have a place and a voice such 
as 08tr6v8ky for instance floes not possess, though he has 
immense talent and his moral tendency is as worthy as 
your own. Why this has happened it would take too 
long to analyse, nor is it to the point If you tear your- 
self off from the circle of writers and become inactive, you 
will be dull, and will deprive yourself of an important rdle 
in society. . . . 

At this time the state of health of his brother Nicholas 
— who (like Demetrius) had consumptive tendencies — began 
to disturb Leo Tolstoy. It was arranged that Nicholas 
should go to Germany for a cure. The following letter 


written by Leo Tolstoy to Fet, after Nicholas had started, 
refers to this and other matters : 

. . . You are a writer and remain a writer^ and God speed 
you. But that, besides this, you wish to find a spot where you 
can dig like an ant, is an idea which has come to you and which 
you must carry out, and carry out better than I have done. 
You must do it because you are both a good man and one who 
looks at life healthily. . . . However, it is not for me now to 
deal out to you approval or disapproval with an air of authority. 
I am greatly at sixes and sevens with myself. Farming on the 
scale on which it is carried out on ray estate, crushes me. To 
' Ufanize ' ^ is a thing I only see afar off. Family affairs, 
Nicholas's illness (of which we have as yet no news from 
abroad) and my sister's departure (she leaves me in three days' 
time) also crush and occupy me. Bachelor life, t.e. not having 
a wife, and the thought that it is getting too late, torments me 
from a third side. In general, everything is now out of tune 
with me. On account of my sister's helplessness and my wish 
to see Nicholas, I shall at any rate procure a foreign passport 
to-morrow, and perhaps I shall accompany my sister abroad ; 
especially if we do not receive news, or receive bad news, from 
Nicholas. How much I would give to see you before leaving, 
how much I want to tell you and to hear from you ; but it is 
now hardly possible. Yet if this letter reaches you quickly, 
remember that we leave Y^naya on Thursday or more pro- 
bably on Friday. 

Now as to farming : The price they ask of you is not ex- 
orbitant, and if the place pleases you, you should buy it. 
Only why do you want so much land ? I have learned by three 
years' experience that with all imaginable diligence it is impos- 
sible to grow cereals profitably or pleasantly on more than 60 or 
70 desyatins [l60 to I90 acres] that is, on about 15 desyatins in 
each of four fields. Only in that way can one escape trembling 
for every omission (for then one ploughs not twice but three or 
four times) and for every hour a peasant misses, and for every 
extra rouble-a-month one pays him ; for one can bring 15 desy- 

' To work like a peasant. The origin of this word is given on p. 179. 


atins to the point of yielding 30 to 40 per cent, on the 
fixed and working capital ; but with 80 or 100 desyatins under 
plough one cannot do so. Please do not let this advice slip 
past your ears ; it is not idle talk, but a result of experience I 
have had to pay for. Any one who tells you differently is either 
lying or ignorant. More than that, even with 15 desyatins an 
all-absorbing industry is necessary. But then one can gain 
a reward — one of the pleasantest life gives ; whereas with 90 
desyatins one has to labour like a post-horse, with no possibility 
of success. I cannot find sufficient words to scold myself for 
not having written to you sooner — in which case you would 
surely have come to see us. Now farewell. 

Things meanwhile were not going very well with 
Nicholas, who wrote from Soden in Hesse-Nassau : 

In Soden we joined Tourg^nef^ who is alive and well — so 
well that he himself confesses that he is ' quite ' well. He has 
found some German girl and goes into ecstasies about her. We 
(this relates to our dearest Tourg^nef) play chess together, but 
somehow it does not go as it should : he is thinking of his 
German girl, and I of my cure. ... I shall probably stay in 
Soden for at least six weeks. I do not describe my journey 
because I was ill all the time. 

Eventually Leo Tolstoy made up his mind to accompany 
his sister and her children abroad, and on Srd July (old 
style) they took steamer from Petersburg for Stettin en 
route for Berlin. Besides anxiety on his brother^s account, 
Tolstoy had another reason for going abroad : he wished 
to study the European systems of education, in order to 
know what had been accomplished in the line to which he 
now intended to devote himself. 

On reaching Berlin he suffered from toothache for four 
days, and decided to remain there while his sister pro- 
ceeded to join Nicholas at Soden. He took medical advice, 
as he was suiFering also from headache and hemorrhoidal 
attacks, and he was ordered to take a cure at Kissingen. 



He only stayed a few days in Berlin after getting rid of his 
toothache, and left on 1 4th July (old style), having how- 
ever found time to attend lectures on History by Droysen, 
and on Physics and Physiology by Du Bois-Reymond, and 
having also visited some evening classes for artisans at the 
Handzoerksvereiny where he was greatly interested in the 
popular lectures, and particularly in the system of * question- 
boxes.^ The method of arousing the interest of the 
audience by allowing them to propound questions for the 
lecturer to reply to, was new to him, and he was struck by 
the life it brought into the classes, and by the freedom of 
mental contact between scholars and lecturer. He noticed 
the same thing when he was in London a few months later, 
for he told me that nothing he saw there interested him 
more than a lecture he attended in South Kensington, at 
which questions were put by working men, and answered 
by a lecturer who was master of his subject and knew how 
to popularise it. 

In Berlin he visited the Moabit Prison, in which solitary 
confinement was practised. Tolstoy strongly disapproved 
of this mechanical attempt to achieve moral reformation. 
From Berlin he went to Leipzig, where he spent a day 
inspecting schools; but he derived little satisfaction from 
the Saxon schools he visited, as is indicated by a remark 
he jotted down in his Diary, ' Have been in school — terrible. 
Prayer for the King, blows, everything by rote, frightened, 
paralysed children. . . .' He then proceeded to Dresden, 
where he called on the novelist Auerbach, whose story, Ein 
Neues Leben (A New L\fe\ had much influenced him. The 
chief character in that story is Count Fulkenberg, who after 
being an oflicer in the army, gets into trouble, escapes 
from prison, buys the passport of a schoolmaster, Eugene 
Baumann, and under that name devotes himself to the 
task of educating peasant children. When Auerbach 
entered the room where his visitor was waiting, the latter 
introduced himself with the words : ^ I am Eugene 


Baumann," in such solemn tones and with so morose an 
appearance, that the German writer was taken aback and 
feared that he was about to be threatened with an action 
for libel. Tolstoy however hastened to add : * — not in 
name, but in character — ' and went on to explain how 
good an effect Auerbach^s Schwarzwdlder Dorfgeschichten 
( VilJage TaJes of the BUtch Forest) had had on him. 

After three days in Dresden, he went on to Kissingen, 
which was in those days about five hours' journey from 
Soden, where Nicholas was staying. Still intent on his 
educational inquiries, he read en route a history of 

From Kissingen he wrote his Aunt Tatidna that he 
thought the cure was doing him good, and added : 

Tell the steward to write me most minutely about the 
farming, the harvest, the horses and their illness. Tell the 
schoolmaster to write about the school : how many pupils come, 
and whether they learn well. I shall certainly return in 
autumn and intend to occupy myself more than ever with the 
school, so I do not wish its reputation to be lost while I am 
away, and I want as many pupils as possible from different 

While in Kissingen he read Bacon and Luther and 
Riehl, and made the acquaintance of Julius Froebel, author 
of The System of Social Politics and nephew of Froebel, 
the founder of the Kindergarten system. Julius Froebel 
was himself much interested in educational matters, and 
was a particularly suitable person to explain his uncle's 
ideas to Tolstoy. 

The latter astonished his new acquaintance, with whom 
he used to go for walks, by the uncompromising rigidity 
of his views, which showed a considerable tinge of Slavo- 
philism. Progress in Russia, declared Tolstoy, must be 
based on popular education, which would give better 
results in Russia than in Germany, because the Russian 
people were still unperverted, whereas the Germans were 


like children who had for years been subjected to a bad 
education. Popular education should not be compulsory. 
If it is a blessing, the demand for it should come naturally, 
as the demand for food comes from hunger. 

Tolstoy visited the country round Kissingen, and travel- 
ling northward through a part of Grermany rich both in 
scenery and in historic interest, reached Eisenach and 
visited the Wartburg, where Luther was confined after the 
Diet of Worms. The personality of the great Protestant 
reformer interested Tolstoy greatly, and after seeing the 
room in which Luther commenced his translation of the 
Bible, he noted in his Diary : * Luther was great ^ ! 
Twenty years later Tolstoy himself attempted to free the 
minds of men from the yoke of an established Church, and 
he too shaped his chief weapon against the Church by 
translating, not, it is true, like Luther, the whole Bible, 
but the Gospels. 

Meanwhile Nicholas Tolstoy's health had been growing 
worse rather than better. Sergius, having been unlucky 
at roulette, decided to return to Russia, and visiting 
Leo at Kissingen en routcy told him of his fears for 
Nicholas. On 9th August Sergius left Kissingen and 
Nicholas himself arrived there to visit Leo, but soon 
returned to Soden. Leo then spent a fortnight in the 
Harz Mountain district, enjoying nature and reading a 
great deal. On 26th August he rejoined Nicholas, his 
sister, and her children at Soden. The doctors had decided 
that Nicholas must winter in a warmer climate, and the 
place chosen was Hyei*es near Toulon, on the Medi- 

The first stage of the journey undertaken by the family 
party was to Frankfurt-on-Main, where their aunt, the 
Countess A. A. Tolstoy, was staying. She tells the 
following story of Leo's visit to her on this occasion : 

One day Prince Alexander of Hesse and his wife were calling 
on me^ when suddenly the door of the drawing-room opened 


and Leo appeared in the strangest garb^ suggestive of a picture 
of a Spanish bandit. I gasped with astonishment. Leo 
apparently was not pleased with my visitors^ and soon took his 

* * Qui est done ce singulier personnage } ' inquired my 
visitors in astonishment. 

' Mais c'est L^on Tolstoy.' 

* Ah, mon Dieu, pourquoi ne Tavea vous pas nomm6 ? Apr^ 
avoir lu ses admirables ecrits, nous mourions d'envie de le voir/ 
said they, reproachfully. 

From Frankfurt the party proceeded to Hyeres, where 
Nicholas, growing rapidly worse and worse, died on 20th 
September (new style). 

Few men have been so admired and loved as he was by all 
who knew him. The only stain on his memory is the fact that 
when serving in the Caucasus he seems, like many of his fellow- 
officers, to have given way to some extent to intemperance ; 
but after returning home he recovered his self-control. I 
have already told of his influence over Leo in the early 
days of the Ant-Brotherhood, and of the green stick, 
buried where Tolstoy himself wishes his body to lie. Such 
influence he retained all through life, and men and women 
of most different temperaments make equally enthusiastic 
mention of his charm and goodness. That Leo^s judgment 
of what is good and bad has remained strongly influenced 
by his love for and memory of Nicholas, is plain enough to 
all who have the facts before them and read his works 

Tourgenef once said : 

The humility which Leo Tolstoy developed theoretically, his 
brother actually practised in life. He always lived in the most 
impossible lodgings, almost hovels, somewhere in the out-of-the- 

* Who is that singular person ? 
Why, it is Leo Tolstoy ! 

Ah, good heavens ! Why did you not tell us who it was.^ After 
reading his admirable writings, we were dying to see him. 


way quarters of Moscow, and he williDgly shared all he had 
with the poorest outcast. He was a delightful companion and 
narrator^ but writing was to him almost a physical impossibility^ 
the actual process of writing being as difficult for him as for a 
labourer whose stiff hands will not hold a pen. 

Nicholas did, however, as a matter of fact, contribute 
some Memoirs of a Sportsman to the Contemporary. 

Never was any oue'^s death moi*e sincerely regretted. 
This is the letter Leo wrote to Aunt Tatiana, the night the 
event occurred. 

CHiRE Xante ! — The black seal will have told you all. What 
I have been expecting from hour to hour for two weeks occurred 
at nine o'clock this evening. Only since yesterday did he let me 
help him undress, and to-day for the first time he definitely took 
to his bed and asked for a nurse. He was conscious all the time^ 
and a quarter-of-an-hour before he died he drank some milk and 
told me he was comfortable. Even to-day he still joked and 
showed interest in my educational projects. Only a few 
minutes before he died he whispered several times : * My God^ 
my God ! ' It seems to me that he felt his position, but 
deceived himself and us. Mdshenka, only to-day, some four 
hours before, had gone three miles out of Hy^res to where she 
is living. She did not at all expect it to come so soon. I have 
just closed his eyes. I shall now soon be back with you and 
will tell you all personally. I do not intend to transport the 
body. The funeral will be arranged by the Princess GoHtsin, 
who has taken it all on herself. 

Farewell, chere tante. I cannot console you. It is God's 
will — that is all. I am not writing to Seryozha now. He is 
probably away hunting, you know where. So let him know, or 
send him this letter. 

On the day after the funeral he wrote to Sergius : 

I think you have had news of the death of Nicholas. I am 
sorry for you that you were not here. Hard as it is, I am glad 
it all took place in my presence, and that it acted on me in the 
right way — not like Mitenka's [his third brother, Demetrius] 


deaths of which I heard when I was not thinking at all about 
him. However, this is quite different. With Mitenka only 
memories of childhood and family feeling were bound up ; but 
this was a real man both to you and to me, whom we loved and 
respected positively more than any one else on earth. You know 
the selfish feeling which came latterly, that the sooner it was 
over the better ; it is dreadful now to write it and to remember 
that one thought it. Till the last day, with his extraordinary 
strength of character and power of concentration, he did every- 
thing to avoid becoming a burden to me. On the day of his 
death he dressed and washed himself, and in the morning I 
found him dressed on his bed. Only about nine hours before 
he died did he give way to his illness and ask to be undressed. 
It first happened in the closet. I went downstairs, and heard 
his door open. I returned and did not find him. At first I 
feared to go to him — he used not to like it ; but this time he 
himself said, ' Help me ! ' 

And he submitted and became different that day, mild and 
gentle. He did not groan, did not blame any one, praised 
everybody, and said to me : * Thank you, my Jriend.' You 
understand what that meant between us. I told him I had 
heard how he coughed in the morning, but did not come to 
him from fausse honte [false shame]. * Needlessly,' said he — 
'it would have consoled me.' Suffering? He suffered; but it 
was not until a couple of days before his death that he once said : 
' How terrible these nights without sleep are ! Towards morning 
the cough chokes one, unendingly ! And it hurts — God knows 
how ! A couple more such nights — it 's terrible ! ' Not once 
did he say plainly that he felt the approach of death. But he 
only did not say it. On the day of his death he ordered a 
dressing-gown, and yet when I remarked that if he did not 
get better, Mdshenka and I would not go to Switzerland, he 
replied : ' Do you really think I shall be better ? ' in such a 
tone that it was evident what he felt but for my sake did not 
say, and what I for his sake did not show ; all the same, from 
the morning I knew what was coming, and was with him all 
the time. He died quite without suffering — externally, at all 
events. He breathed more and more slowly — and it was all 
over. The next day I went to him and feared to uncover his 


face. I thought it would show yet more sufferiog and be more 
terrible than during his illness ; but you cannot imagine what 
a beautiful face it was, with his best, merry, cabn expression. 

Yesterday he was buried here. At one time I thought of 
transporting him, and of telegraphing for you; but I recon- 
sidered it It is no use chafing the wound. I am sorry for you 
that the news will have reached you out hunting, amid distrac- 
tions, and will not grip you as it does us. It is good for one. 
I now feel what I have often been told, that when one loses 
some one who was what he was to us, it becomes much easier to 
think of one's own death. 

On 13th October 1860 he notes in his Diary : 

It is nearly a month since Nicholas died. That event has 
torn me terribly from life. Again the question : Why ? 
Already the departure draws near. Whither? Nowhere. I 
try to write, I force myself, but do not get on, because I 
cannot attach enough importance to the work to supply the 
necessary strength and patience. At the very time of the 
funeral the thought occurred to me to write a Materialist 
Grospel, a Life of Christ as a Materialist. 

One sees how bit by bit the seeds of the work Tolstoy 
was to do in later years planted themselves in his mind. 
In early childhood came the enthusiasm for the Ant- 
Brotherhood and the influence of his brother, of Aunt 
Tatidna, and of the pilgrims ; then an acquaintance with 
the writings of Voltaire and other sceptics, undermining 
belief in the miraculous ; then, in Sevastopol, the idea of 
* founding a new religion : Christianity purged of dogmcts 
and mysticism ' ; then a study of Luther's Reformation, 
and now the idea of a rationalist Life of Christ. 

On 17th October Tolstoy writes to Fet : 

I think you already know what has happened. On 20 
September he died, literally in my arms. Nothing in my life 
has so impressed me. It is true, as he said, that nothing is 
worse than death. And when one reflects well that yet that is 
the end of all, then there is nothing worse than life. Why 

Tolstoy in i860, the year his brother 
Nicholas died. 


strive or try, since of what was Nicholas Tolstoy nothing 
remains his? He did not say that he felt the approach of 
death, but I know he watched each step of its approach and 
knew with certainty how much remained. Some moments 
before his death he drowsed off*, but awoke suddenly and 
whispered with horror ; ' What is that ? ' That was when he 
saw it — the absorption of himself into Nothingness. And if he 
found nothing to cling to, what can I find ? Still less ! And 
assuredly neither I nor any one will fight it to the last moment, 
as he did. Two days before, I said to him : ' We ought to put 
a commode in your room.' 

' No,' said he, ' I am weak, but not yet so weak as that ; I 
will struggle on yet awhile/ 

To the last he did not yield, but did everything for himself, 
and always tried to be occupied. He wrote, questioned me 
about my writings, and advised me. But it seemed to me that 
he did all this not from any inner impulse, but on principle. 
One thing — his love of Nature — remained to the last. The 
day before, he went into his bedroom and from weakness feU 
on his bed by the open window. I came to him, and he said 
with tears in his eyes, ' How I have enjoyed this whole^hour.' 

From earth we come, and to the earth we go. One thing is 
left — a dim hope that there, in Nature, of which we become 
part in the earth, something will remain and will be found. 

All who knew and saw his last moments, say : ' How 
wonderfully calmly, peacefully he died ' ; but I know with 
what terrible pain, for not one feeling of his escaped me. 

A thousand times I say to myself: ^ Let the dead bury their 
dead.' One must make some use of the strength which 
remains to one, but one cannot persuade a stone to fall 
upwards instead of downwards whither it is drawn. One 
cannot laugh at a joke one is weary of. One cannot eat when 
one does not want to. And what is life all for, when to-morrow 
the torments of death will begin, with all the abomination of 
falsehood and self-deception, and will end in annihilation for 
oneself? An amusing thing ! Be useful, be beneficent, be 
happy while life lasts, — say people to one another; but you, 
and happiness, and virtue, and utility, consist of truth. And 
the truth I have learned in thirty-two years is, that the posi- 


tion in which we are placed is terrible. ^ Take life as it is ; 
you have put yourselves in that position/ How ! I take life as 
it is. As soon as man reaches the highest degree of develop- 
ment^ he sees clearly that it is all nonsense and deception^ and 
that the truth — which he still loves better than all else — is 
terrible. That when you look at it well and clearly^ you 
wake with a start and say with terror^ as my brother did : 
'What is that .>' 

Of course, so long as the desire to know and speak the truth 
lasts, one tries to know and speak. That alone remains to me 
of the moral world ; higher than that I cannot place myself. 
That alone I will do, but not in the form of your art Art is 
a lie, and I can no longer love a beautiful lie. 

I shall remain here for the winter because I am here, and it 
is all the same where one lives. Please write to me. I love 
you as my brother loved you, and he remembered you to his 
last moment. 

A month later we find him writing in a different state 
of mind : 

A boy of thirteen has died in torment from consumption. 
What for ? The only explanation is given by faith in the com- 
pensation of a future life. If that does not exist, there is no 
justice, and justice is vain, and the demand for justice — a 

Justice forms the most essential demand of man to man. 
And man looks for the same in his relation to the universe. 
Without a future life it is lacking. Expediency is the sole, the 
unalterable law of Nature, say the naturalists. But in the best 
manifestations of man s soul : love and poetry — it is absent. 
This has all existed and has died — often without expressing 
itself. Nature, if her one law be expediency, far o'erstepped 
her aim when she gave man the need of poetry and love. 

Nearly twenty years later, in his Confessiouy Tolstoy 
referred to his brother's death in the words : 

Another event which showed me that the superstitious belief 
in progress is insufficient as a guide to life, was my brother's 


death. Wise^ good, serious, he fell ill while still a young man, 
suffered for more than a year and died painfully, not under- 
standing why he had lived, and still less why he had to die. 
No theories could give me, or him, any reply to these questions 
during his slow and painful dying. 

Any one who has read the works Tolstoy wrote during 
the quarter of a century which succeeded his brother's 
death, will be aware how long he remained in doubt on 
this matter of a future life, and how he expressed now one, 
and now another view. 

At Hyeres he continued to study the question of 
education, and for that purpose made many visits to 
Marseilles. He also wrote : continuing The Cossacks and 
commencing an article on Popular Education. We get 
a glimpse of him at this period from his sister, who tells 
us that they had been invited to an At Home at Prince 
Doundoukdf-Eorsdkofs; but Tolstoy, who was to have 
been the lion of the occasion, failed to put in an appear- 
ance. The company, which included all the * best ' people, 
were getting dull, despite everything the hostess could 
devise for their amusement, when at last, very late. Count 
Tolstoy was announced. The hostess and her guests 
immediately brightened up ; but what was their astonish- 
ment to see him appear in tourist garb and wearing 
wooden sabots ! He had been for a long walk, and return- 
ing late, had come to the party without calling at his 
lodgings; and no sooner was he in the room than he 
began assuring everybody that wooden sabots were the very 
best and most comfortable of foot-gear, and advising every 
one to adopt them. Even in those days he was a man to 
whom all things were allowed, and the evening, instead of 
being spoilt, became all the gayer from his eccentricity. 
There was a great deal of singing, and it fell to Tolstoy's 
lot to accompany the singers. 

At Hyeres, after his brother's death, Tolstoy lived with 
his sister and her three children in a pension where the 


only other lodgers were a Madame Fldksin and her delicate 
nine-year-old son Seig^y, whose lungs were thought to be 
afiectedy but who lived to become a poet and to publish his 
recollections of Tolstoy. Fldksin describes him as having 
been at that time a strongly built, broad-shouldered man, 
with a good-natured smile on his face, which was fringed 
by a thick, dark-brown beard. Under a large foreh^ul, 
still bearing a deep scar from the wound inflicted by the 
bear two years before, wise, kind eyes shone out of very 
deep sockets. ^ Tolstoy,"* says Pldksin, ^ was the soul of our 
little society, and I never saw him dull ; on the contrary, 
he liked to amuse us with his stories, which were sometimes 
extremely fantastic." Tolstoy rose early, and while he was 
at work the children were not allowed to disturb him 
beyond running in for a moment to say ^ good-morning.'' 
Being himself an indefatigable walker, Tolstoy used to 
plan out excursions for the company, constantly discovering 
new places to visit : the s€kltems on the peninsula of Por- 
querolle ; the holy hill where the chapel with the wonder- 
working image of the Madonna stands ; or the ruins of the 
castie called Troti des FSes. They used to have with them 
on these excursions, a small ass carrying provisions, fruit 
and wine. 

On the way Tolstoy used to tell us various tales ; I remember 
one about a golden horse and a giant tree^ from the top of 
which all the seas and all towns were visible. Knowing that 
my lungs were delicate, he often took me on his shoulder and 
continued his tale as he walked along. Need 1 say that we 
would have laid down our lives for him ? 

At dinner-time Tolstoy used to tell the French pro- 
prietors of the pension the strangest stories about Russia, 
which they never knew whether or not to believe until 
the Countess or Madame Pldksin came to their rescue by 
separating the truth from the fiction. 

After dinner, either on the terrace or indoors, a per- 


formance commenced, opera or ballet, to the sound of the 
piano : the children * mercilessly tormenting the ears of the 
audience ^ (which consisted of the two ladies, Tolstoy, and 
Pl^sin^s nurse). Next came gymnastic exercises, in which 
Tolstoy acted as professor. * He would lie at full length 
on the floor, making us do the same, and we had then to 
get up without using our hands."* He also contrived an 
apparatus out of rope, which he fixed up in the doorway ; 
and on this he performed somersaults, to the great delight 
of his juvenile audience. 

When the latter became too turbulent and the ladies 
begged Tolstoy to subdue the noise, he would set the chil- 
dren round the table, and tell them to bring pens and ink. 

The following is an example of the sort of occupation he 
provided : 

^ Listen/ said he one day ; ^ I am going to give you a lesson.' 

' What on ? ' demanded bright-eyed Lisa. 

Disregarding his niece's question, he continued : 

'Write . . .' 

' But what are we to write, uncle ? ' persisted Lisa. 

' Listen ; I will give you a theme . . . ! ' 

' What will you give us ? * 

' A theme ! ' firmly replied Tolstoy. ' In what respect does 
Russia differ from other countries? Write it here, in my 
presence, and don't copy from one another ! Do you hear } ' 
added he, impressively. 

In half an hour the * compositions ' were ready. Pldk- 
sin had to read his own, as his lines were so irregular that 
no one else could decipher them. In his opinion Russia 
differed from other countries in that, at carnival time, 
Russians eat pancakes and slide down ice-hills, and at 
Easter they colour eggs. 

* Bravo ! '* said Tolstoy, and proceeded to make out 
Kdlya's MS., in which Russia was distinguished by its 
snow, and Lisa^s, in which * troikas "" (three-horse convey- 
ances) played the chief part. 


In reward for these evening exercises, Tolstoy brou^t 
water-colour paints from Marseilles and taught the children 

He often spent nearly the whole day with the children, 
teaching them, taking part in their games, and intervening 
in their disputes, which he analysed, proving to them who 
was in the right and who in the wrong. 

There was at this time some mutual attraction between 
Tolstoy and a young Russian lady. Miss Ydkovlef, who was 
staying at Hyeres ; but, like many other similar affairs, it 
came to nothing. 

On leaving Hyeres, Tolstoy, his sister, and her children, 
went to Geneva, and from thence he proceeded alone to 
Nice, Leghorn, Florence, Rome, and Naples. In Italy he 
says he experienced his first lively impression of antiquity ; 
but very little record remains of this journey, and it is 
nowhere reflected in his writings. 

He returned to Paris via Marseilles, the schools and 
other institutions of which he obsen'ed closely, trying to 
discover how man's intelligence is really best developed. 

He was very unfavourably impressed by the popular 
schools of Marseilles. The studies, he sap, consisted in 
learning by heart the Catechism, sacred and general 
History, the four rules of Arithmetic, French spelling and 
Book-keeping — the latter without sufficient comprehension 
of the use of arithmetic to enable the children to deal 
sensibly with the simplest practical problems requiring 
addition and subtraction, though they could do long multi- 
plication sums quickly and well when only abstract figures 
were given. Similarly, they answered well by rote ques- 
tions in French History, but, when asked at hazard, they 
would give such answers as that Henry IV was killed by 
Julius Caesar. 

He observed the instruction given by the Churches, and 
visited the adult schools of the town, as well as its Salles 
(TAsile^ in which, he says : 


I saw four-year-old children perform like soldiers, evolu- 
tions round benches to orders given by whistle, and raise and 
cross their arms to the word of command, and with strange 
trembling voices sing hymns of praise to God and their bene- 
factors ; and I became convinced that the educational establish- 
ments of Marseilles were extremely bad. 

Any one seeing them would naturally conclude that the 
French people must be ignorant, coarse, hypocritical, full of 
superstition and almost savage. 

Yet one need only come in contact with and chat with any 
of the common people, to convince oneself that on the contrary 
the French people are almost what they consider themselves to 
be : intelligent, clever, sociable, freethinking, and really civil- 
ised. Take a workman of, say, thirty years of age: he will 
write a letter without such mistakes as at school, sometimes 
even quite correctly ; he has some idea of politics, and therefore 
of recent history and geography ; he knows some history from 
novels, knows something of natural history, and he very often 
draws, and is able to apply mathematical formulae to his trade. 
Where did he get all this ? 

I recently discovered the answer in Marseilles, by wandering 
about the streets, drink-shops, cafis chantants, museums, work- 
shops, wharves and book-stalls. The very boy who told me 
that Henry IV was killed by Julius Cssar, knew the history of 
The Three Musketeers and of Monte Crista very well. 

Id Marseilles Tolstoy found that everybody had read 
Dumas' works, of which there were twenty-eight cheap 
editions. He estimated that each week, in the cq/is 
cJiantantSy at least one-fifkh of the population received oral 
education, as the Greeks and Romans used to do. Comedies 
and sketches were performed, verses declaimed, and the in- 
fluence for good or evil of this unconscious education far out- 
weighed that of the compulsory education given in schools. 

In January he reached Paris, where he spent a large 
part of his time in omnibuses, amusing himself by 
observing the people. He declares he never met a 
passenger who was not represented in one or other of Paul 


de Kock^s stories. Of that writer, as of Dumas pire^ he 
thinks highly. ^ Don't talk nonsense to me,'* he once said, 
*' about Paul de Eock's immorality. He is, according to 
English ideas, somewhat improper. He is more or less 
what the French call teste and gaidoisy but never immoral. 
In everything he says, and despite his rather free jests, his 
tendency is quite moral. He is a French Dickens. . . . As 
to Dumas, every novelist should know him by hecirt. His 
plots are admirable, not to mention the workmanship. I 
can read and re-read him, though he aims chiefly at plots 
and intrigue." 

In Paris he again met Tourgenef ; and from France he 
went on to London, where he remained six weeks, not 
enjoying his visit much as he suffered severely from tooth- 
ache nearly all the time. It is characteristic of Tolstoy 
that though he has often been a victim to toothache and 
has also been much tried by digestive troubles, he never 
appears to have had his teeth properly attended to by a 
dentist. A dentist's establishment seems to him so un- 
natural and artificial that it must be wrong. Moreover, 
dentists do not always do their work well ; and toothache 
— if one endures it long enough — cures itself, and the 
majority of mankind have got along without dentists in 
the past. So he has been inclined to put up with toothache 
as one of the ills it is best to bear patiently. 

During his stay he saw a great deal of Alexander 
Herzen, who was editing Kohkol (The Bell) — the most 
influential paper ever published by a Russian exile. 

I have already remarked on the fact that the Reform 
movements of that time left Tolstoy curiously cold ; and 
here again it may be noted that though Tourgenef con- 
tributed to Herzen's prohibited paper, Tolstoy, who was 
in touch with both these men, never contributed anything 
to it. 

Herzen's little daughter, who had read and greatly 
enjoyed Childhood^ Boyhood^ and Youth^ hearing that the 


author was coming to see her father, obtained permission 
to be present when he called. She ensconced herself in an 
arm-chair in a corner of the study at the appointed time, 
and when Count Tolstoy was announced, awaited his 
appearance with beating heart ; but she was profoundly 
disillusioned by the entrance of a man of society manners, 
fashionably dressed in the latest style of English tailoring, 
who began at once to tell with gusto of the cock-fights 
and boxing-matches he had already managed to witness in 
London. Not a single word with which she could sym- 
pathise did she hear from Tolstoy throughout that one and 
only occasion on which she was privileged to listen to his 
conversation ; and in this she was particularly unlucky, for 
Tolstoy saw Herzen very frequently during his stay in 
London, and the two discussed all sorts of important 
questions together. 

One of Herzen's closest friends and co-workers was the 
poet N. P. Ogarydf, his fellow- student at the Moscow Uni- 
versity, whose estate was near Ydsnaya, whose family had 
been intimate with Tolstoy^s parents, and to whom Tolstoy 
in his earlier gambling days had been in debt. In an 
essay entitled The First Step^ written in 1892, we get a 
glimpse of what alienated Tolstoy's sympathy from the 
progressive movement these men represented. He there 
says : 

I have just been reading the letters of one of our highly 
educated and advanced men of the 'forties, the exile Ogary6f, 
to another yet more highly educated and gifted man, Herzen. 
In these letters Ogaryof gives expression to his sincere 
thoughts and highest aspirations^ and one cannot fail to 
see that — as was natural to a young man — he rather shows 
off before his friend. He talks of self-perfecting, of sacred 
friendship, love, the service of science, of humanity, and the 
like. And at the same time he calmly writes that he often 
irritates the companion of his life by, as he expresses it, ' retum- 

^ In the volume Essays and Letters ^ included in the WorkPs Classics, 



ing home in an unsober state^ or disappearing for many hours 
with a fallen, but dear creature.' . . . 

Evidently it never even occurred to this remarkably kind- 
hearted, talented, and well-educated man that there was any- 
thing at all objectionable in the fact that he, a married man, 
awaiting the confinement of his wife (in his next letter he 
writes that his wife has given birth to a child) returned home 
intoxicated, and disappeared with dissolute women. It did 
not enter his head that until he had commenced the struggle, 
and had at least to some extent conquered his inclination to 
drunkenness and fornication, he could not think of friendship 
and love, and still less of serving any one or any thing. But 
he not only did not struggle against these vices — he evidently 
thought there was something very nice in them, and that they 
did not in the least hinder the struggle for perfection; and 
therefore instead of hiding them from the friend in whose eyes 
he wishes to appear in a good light, he exhibits them. 

Thus it was half a century ago. 1 was contemporary with 
such men. I knew Ogary6f and Herzen themselves and others 
of that stamp, and men educated in the same traditions. There 
was a remarkable absence of consistency in the lives of all these 
men. Together with a sincere and ardent wish for good, there 
was an utter looseness of personal desire, which, they thought, 
could not hinder the living of a good life, nor the performance 
of good and even great deeds. They put unkneaded loaves 
into a cold oven, and believed that bread would be baked. 
And then, when with advancing years they began to remark 
that the bread did not bake — Le, that no good came of their 
lives — they saw in this something peculiarly tragic. 

This was written twenty years later ; but it was latent 
in his mind at the time, and furnishes a clue to the fact 
that he never really made friends with these men. 

Of Herzen as a writer Tolstoy ultimately came to have 
a high opinion, and admitted that he exerted a very con- 
siderable influence on the mind of educated Russia. 

In England, as elsewhere, Tolstoy saw as much as he 
could of the educational methods in vogue. He also 


visited the House of Commons and heard Palmerston speak 
for three hours ; but he told me he could form no opinion 
of the oration, for * at that time I knew English with my 
eyes but not with my ears."* 

While in London, Tolstoy received news that he had 
been nominated an Arbiter of the Peace for his own district, 
near Toula. The duties of the office were to settle dis- 
putes between the serfs and their former proprietors. This 
was the only official position Tolstoy ever held after leaving 
the army. 

On 3rd March (new style), the day of Alexander IPs 
famous Manifesto emancipating the serfs, Tolstoy left 
London for Russia tnd Brussels. In that city he made 
the acquaintance of Froudhon (the author of Qu^est-ce que 
la Propriete f and a Systhne des Contradictions l^onomiques) 
to whom Herzen had given him a letter of introduction. 
Proudhon impressed Tolstoy as a strong man, who had the 
courage of his opinions ; and though Proudhon^s theories 
had no immediate effect on Tolstoy's life, the social 
political and economic views expounded by the latter a 
quarter of a century later, are deeply dyed with Proud- 
honism. Both writers consider that property is robbery ; 
interest immoral ; peaceful anarchy the desirable culmina- 
tion of social progress, and that each man should be a law 
unto himself, restrained solely by reason, conscience and 
moral suasion. Another writer whose acquaintance Tolstoy 
made in Brussels was the Polish patriot Lelewel, who had 
taken a prominent part in the rebellion of 1830, and had 
written on Polish history and on many other subjects. He 
was at this time a decrepit old man living in great poverty. 
While in Brussels Tolstoy wrote Polikoushka^ almost the 
only story of his (besides A Squire^s Morning) that implies 
a condemnation of serfdom. 

Passing through Germany, Tolstoy stopped at Weimar, 
where he stayed with the Russian Ambassador, Von Mal- 
titz, and was introduced to the Grand Duke Carl Alexander, 


Tolstoy (who had been reading Goethe's Reineke Fuchs not 
long before) visited the house in which Goethe had lived, 
but was more interested in a Kindergarten conducted by 
Minna Schelholm, who had been trained by Froebel. From 
another school he visited, we hear of his collecting and 
carrying off the essays the pupils had written, explaining to 
the master that he was much concerned with the problem, 
' How to make thought flow more freely.** 

At Jena he made acquaintance with a young mathema- 
tician named Keller, whom he persuaded to accompany him 
to Ydsnaya to help him in his educational activities. He 
also stopped at Dresden, where he again visited Auerbach, 
concerning whom he jots down in his Diary : 

21 April, Dresden : Auerbach is a most charming man. 
Has given me a light. . . . He spoke of Christianity as the 
spirit of humanity, than which there is nothing higher. He 
reads verse enchantingly. Of Music as Pflichlioser Genuss 
(duty less pleasure). . . . He is 49 years old. Straightforward, 
youthful^ believing, not troubled by negation. 

On another occasion Tolstoy expressed surprise at never 
having seen Auerbach's Village Talcs of the Black Foreid 
in any German peasant's house, and declared that Russian 
peasants would have wept over such stories. 

From Dresden he wrote to his Aunt Tatiana : 

♦ Je me porte bien et brAle d'euvie de retoumer en Russie. 
Mais une fois en Europe et ne saehant quand j*y retoumerai, 
vous comprenez que j'ai voulu profiter, autant que possible, de 
mon voyage. Et je crois I'avoir fait. Je rapporte une si grande 
quantity d'impressions, de eonnaissanees, que je devrai tra- 

* I am in good health and burn with desire to return to Russia. 
But once in Europe and not knowing when I shall return, you 
understand that I wanted to benefit as much as possible by my 
travels. And I think I have done so. I am bringing back such a 


vailler longtemps^ avant de pouvoir mettre tout cela en ordre 
dans ma t^te. 

I am bringing with me a German from the University^ to be 
a teacher and clerk^ a very nice^ well-educated man^ but still 
very young and unpractical. 

He adds that he intends to return to Y^naya via 
St. Petersburg, where he wants to obtain permission to 
publish an educational magazine he is projecting. 

On 22nd April he was already in Berlin, where he made 
the acquaintance of the head of the Teachers'* Seminary, 
the son of the celebrated pedagogue Diesterweg, whom, to 
his disappointment, he found to be ^ a cold, soulless pedant, 
who thinks he can develop and guide the souls of children 
by rules and regulations." 

On 23rd April (old style) he re-entered Russia, after a 
stay abroad of nearly ten months. 





Tolstoy's ConfesMon. 

Golovdtcheva-Panaeva, Rotisjtkie Piiateii t Artiity. 

ToxiTgenef, Letters. 

S. Plaksin, Graf L, ToUtoy sredi detey. 

Tolstoy's works, vol. iv. : Moscow^ 1903. 

R. Loweiifeld, Leo N. ToUtoJ. 

R. Lowenfeld^ QesprHche Uber und mil ToUtaf. 

great quantity of impressions and facts^ that I must work a long 
time before I can get it all in order in my head. 


AT yXsnaya again; tourg^nef; aubiter; 


Quarrel with Toui^Qe£ Attitude towards Reforms. Arbiter 
of the Peace. Educational Magazine. 

During the winter, sledges are used in Russia, and during 
the summer the roads are available for wheeled vehicles. 
But there is a period while the winter snow is melting, 
when one can hardly travel either by sledge or on wheels. 
Tolstoy reached Moscow at this transition period, but 
had not to wait long before the roads were dry enough 
for carriage traffic. He made the journey southward to 
Toula in company with Mrs. Fet, wife of his friend the poet. 
Mrs. Fet was travelling in her own carriage, accompanied 
by her maid, to the estate Fet had purchased at some 
distance from Y^naya. Tolstoy had his own conveyance, 
but for company'^s sake changed places with the maid and 
travelled with Mrs. Fet. In the cool of the evening he 
borrowed and wrapped himself in a cloak of Fefs, declar- 
ing that this would be sure to result in his producing a 
lyric poem. 

Soon after reaching Ydsnaya he wrote (in the third week 

of May) to congratulate Fet on having become a 

landed proprietor : 

How long it is since we met^ and how much has happened 
to both of us meanwhile ! I do not know how to rejoice 
sufficiently when I hear or think of your activity as a farmer, 



and I am rather proud to have had at least some hand in the 
matter. ... It is good to have a friend ; but he may die or 
go away^ or one may not be able to keep pace with him ; but 
Nature, to which one is wedded by a Notarial Deed^ or to 
which one has been bom by inheritance^ is still better. It is 
one's own bit of Nature. She is cold^ obdurate^ disdainful and 
exacting^ but then she is a friend one does not lose till deaths 
and even then one will be absorbed into her. I am however 
at present less devoted to this friend : I have other affairs that 
attract me ; yet but for the consciousness that she is there^ 
and that if I stumble she is at hand to hold on to — life would 
be but a sad business. 

A few days later Tolstoy visited Tourg^nef, and the 
two set out together to visit Fet, whom they took by 
surprise in his small and as yet but half-arranged country 

While the visitors rested for a couple of hours, recover- 
ing from the fatigue of their journey, Mrs. Fet saw to it 
that the dinner assumed * a more substantial and inviting 
appearance.'* During the meal the whole party b^an an 
animated conversation, and Tourgenef, always fond of 
good eating, fully appreciated the eflTorts Fet's excellent 
man-cook had made. Champagne flowed, as was usual at 
such reunions. After dinner the three friends strolled 
to a wood a couple of hundred yards from the house, and 
lying down in the high grass at its outskirts, continued 
their talk with yet more freedom and animation. 

Next morning at the usual breakfast time, about eight 
o'^clock, the visitors entered the room where Mrs. Fet 
presided at the samovdr. Fet sat at the opposite end 
of the table, Tourgenef at the hostesses right hand, and 
Tolstoy at her left. Knowing the importance Tourgenef 
attached to the education of his natural daughter, who 
was being brought up in France, Mrs. Fet inquired 
whether he was satisfied with her English governess. 
Tourgenef praised the latter highly, and mentioned that, 


with English exactitude, she had requested him to fix 
the sum his daughter might give away in charity. ^ And 
now,'' added Tourgenef, * she requires my daughter to take 
in hand and mend the tattered clothes of the poor.^ 

' And you consider that good ? ' asked Tolstoy. 

*• Certainly : it places the doer of charity in touch with 
everyday needs.' 

*And I consider that a well-dressed girl with dirty, 
ill-smelling rags on her lap, is acting an insincere, 
theatrical farce." 

' I beg you not to say that ! ' exclaimed Tourgenef, 
with dilated nostrils. 

* Why should I not say what I am convinced is true ? ' 
replied Tolstoy. 

* Then you consider that I educate my daughter badly ? ** 
Tolstoy replied that his thought corresponded to his 


Before Fet could interpose, Tourgenef, white with rage, 
exclaimed : * If you speak in that way I will punch your 
head ! ^ and, jumping up from the table and seizing his 
head in his hands, he rushed into the next room. A 
second later he returned and, addressing Mrs. Fet, said : 
* For heaven's sake excuse my improper conduct, which I 
deeply regret ! ' and again left the room. 

Fet, realising the impossibility of keeping his visitors 
together after what had happened, was perplexed what to 
do, for they had both arrived in Tourgeners vehicle, and, 
newly established in the country, Fet, though he had 
horses, had none accustomed to be driven in the only 
conveyance he possessed. To get Tourgenef oft* was easy ; 
but it was not without some difficulty and even danger 
from the restive horses, that Tolstoy was conveyed to the 
nearest post-station at which a hired conveyance could be 

From Novoselok, the first country house Tolstoy 
reached, he wrote Tourgenef a letter demanding an 


apology. From the next stage (BogousUf) he sent a 
messenger to procure pistols, and wrote a second and 
more peremptory challenge to Tourgenef, stating that 
he did not wish to fight in a merely formal manner, 
like literary men who finish up with champagne, but 
that he was in earnest, and hoped Tourgenef would 
meet him with pistols at the outskirt of the BogousUf 

That night was a sleepless one for Tolstoy. The 
morning brought Tourgenef's reply to his first letter. It 
commenced in the usual formal manner of polite com- 
munications : 

Gracious Sir, Leo NikolAyevitch ! — In reply to your letter, 
I can only repeat, what I myself considered it my duty to 
announce to you at Fet's: namely, that carried away by a 
feeling of involuntary enmity, the causes of which need not 
here be considered, I insulted you without any definite pro- 
vocation; and I asked your pardon. What happened this 
morning proved clearly that attempts at intimacy between such 
opposite natures as yours and mine can lead to no good result ; 
and I the more readily fulfil my duty to you, because the present 
letter probably terminates our relations with one another. 
I heartily hope it may satisfy you, and I consent in advance to 
your making what use you please of it. 

With perfect respect, I have the honour to remain. Gracious 
Sir, your most humble servant, Iv. Tourgenef. 

SpXsskoyb, 27 May 1861. 

F.S. 10.30 P.M.: 

IvAn Petr6vitch has just brought back my letter, which my 
servant stupidly sent to Novos^lok instead of to Bogouslaf. I 
humbly beg you to excuse this accidental and regrettable 
mistake, and I hope my messenger will still find you at 

Tolstoy thereupon wrote to Fet : 

I could not resist opening another letter from Mr. Tourg6nef 
in reply to mine. I wish you well of your relations with that 


man, but I despise him. I have written to him^ and therewith 
have terminated all relations, except that I hold myself ready to 
give him any satisfaction he may desire. Notwithstanding all 
my apparent tranquillity, I was disturbed in spirit and felt I must 
demand a more explicit apology from Mr. Tourg^nef; I did 
this in my letter from Novos^lok. Here is his answer, which 
I accept as satisfactory^ merely informing him that my reason 
for excusing him is not our opposite natures^ but one he may 
himself surmise. 

In consequence of the delay which occurred, I sent besides 
this, another letter, harsh enough and containing a challenge, 
to which I have not received any reply ; but should I receive 
one I shall return it unopened. So there is an end of that sad 
story, which, if it goes beyond your house, should do so with 
this addendum. 

Tourg^nefs reply to the challenge came to hand later^ 
and ran as follows : 

Your servant says you desire a reply to your letter ; but I 
do not see what I can add to what I have already written; 
unless it be that I admit your right to demand satisfaction, 
weapons in hand. You have preferred to accept my spoken 
and repeated apology. That was as you pleased. I will say 
without phrases, that I would willingly stand your fire in order 
to efface my truly insane words. That I should have uttered 
them is so unlike the habits of my whole life, that I can only 
attribute my action to irritability evoked by the extreme and 
constant antagonism of our views. This is not an apology — I 
mean to say, not a justification — but an explanation. And 
therefore, at parting from you for ever — for such occurrences 
are indelible and irrevocable — I consider it my duty to repeat 
once again that in this affair you were in the right and I in the 
wrong. I add that what is here in question is not the courage 
I vnsh, or do not wish, to show, but an acknowledgment of 
your right to call me out to fight in the accepted manner of 
course (with seconds), as well as your right to pardon me. You 
have chosen as you pleased, and I have only to submit to your 
decision. I renew my assurance of my entire respect, 



The quarrel was not, however, destined to die out so 
quickly. Even good-natured Fet got into trouble by 
trying to reconcile the irascible novelists. Here is one 
of the notes he received from Tolstoy : 

I request you not to write to me again^ as I shall return 
your letters^ as well as Tourg6nef*s, unopened. 

Fet remarks : ^ So all my attempts to put the matter 
right ended in a formal rupture of my relations with 
Tolstoy, and I cannot now even remember how friendly 
relations between us were renewed.'' 

Before four months had passed, Tolstoy repented him 
of his quarrel. Like Prince Nehludof in Resurrection^ he 
used from time to time to repent of all his sins and all 
his quarrels, and undertook a sort of spring- or autumn- 
cleaning of his soul. It was at such a moment that, on 
S5th September, he wrote to Tourgenef expressing regret 
that their relations to one another were hostile, and he 
added : ^ If I have insulted you, forgive me ; I find it 
unendurably hard to think I have an enemy.^ Not knowing 
Tourg^nef's address in France, he sent this letter to a 
bookseller in Petersburg (with whom he knew Tourgenef 
corresponded) to be forwarded. The letter took more 
than three months to reach its destination, nor was 
this the only thing that went wrong, as is shown by the 
following portion of a letter, dated 8th November, from 
Tourgenef to Fet : 

Apropos, ' one more last remark ' about the unfortunate affair 
vrith Tolstoy. Passing through Petersburg I learned from 
certain 'reliable people' (Oh^ those reliable people!) that 
copies of Tolstoy's last letter to me (the letter in which he 
' despises ' me) are circulating in Moscow^ and are said to have 
been distributed by Tolstoy himself. That enraged me, and 
I sent him a challenge to fight when I return to Russia. Tol- 
stoy has answered that the circulation of the copies is pure 
invention^ and he encloses another letter in which, recapitu- 


lating that, and how, I insulted him, he asks my forgiveness 
and declines my challenge. Of course the matter must 
end there, and I will only ask you to tell him (for he writes 
that he will consider any fresh communication from me to him 
as an insult) that I myself repudiate any duel, etc., and hope 
the whole matter is buried for ever. His letter (apologising) 
I have destroyed. Another letter, which he says he sent me 
through the bookseller Davidof, I never received. And now 
as to the whole matter — de profundis, 

Tolstoy noted in his Diary one day in October : 

Yesterday I received a letter from Tourg^nef in which he 
accuses me of saying he is a coward and of circulating copies 
of my letter. I have written him that it is nonsense, and 
I have also sent him a letter : ' You call my action dishonour- 
able and you formerly wished to punch my head ; but I con- 
sider myself guilty, ask pardon, and refuse the challenge.' 

,««,. Even then the matter was not at an end, for on 

7th January [new style ?] Tourgcnef writes to Fet : 

And now a plain question : Have you seen Tolstoy ? I have 
only to-day received the letter he sent me in September 
through Davidof 's bookshop (how accurate are our Russian mer- 
chants !). In this letter he speaks of his intention to insult me, 
and apologises, etc. And almost at that very time, in con- 
sequence of some gossip about which I think I wrote you, 
I sent him a challenge. From all this one must conclude that 
our constellations move through space in definitely hostile con- 
junction, and that therefore we had better, as he himself says, 
avoid meeting. But you may write or tell him (if you see him) 
that I (without phrase or joke) f/vm afar love him very much, 
respect him and watch his fate with sympathetic interest ; but 
that in proximity all takes a different turn. What 's to be done } 
We must live as though we inhabited different planets or 
different centuries. 

Tolstoy evidently took umbrage at Tourgeners message, 
and visited his wrath on Fet^s innocent head. To be pro- 


foundly humble and forgiving at his own command, was 
always, it seems, easier for Tolstoy than to let his opponent 
have an opinion of his own. Tolstoy likes things to be 
quite clear-cut and definite, and it complicates matters to 
have to reckon with any one else^s views. At any rate 
Tourgenef writes : 

Parir, 14 Jan, [o.s.?] 1862. 
Dearest AfanAsy AfanAsyevitch ! [Fet's Christian name 
and patronymic]. — First of all I must ask your pardon for the 
quite unexpected tile {iuile, as the French say) that tumbled 
on your head as a result of my letter. The one thing which 
somewhat consoles me is that I could not possibly have 
expected such a freak on Tolstoy's part^ and thought I was 
arranging all for the best. It seems it is a wound of a kind 
better not touched at all. 

To judge the relations between these two great writers 
fairly, one must remember that Tourgenef was ten years 
the elder and, until War arid Peace appeared, ranked 
higher in popular esteem ; yet Tolstoy showed him no 
deference, but on the contrary often attacked him and 
his views with mordant irony. Tourgenef was neither ill- 
natured nor quarrelsome. If Tolstoy had treated him with 
consideration or had been willing to let him alone, there 
would have been no question either of insult or of challenge. 
But the younger man sought the elder'^s company, and then 
made himself disagreeable ; and this, not of malice pre- 
pense, but because it is his nature to demand perfection 
from great men, and vehemently to attack those who fail 
to reach the standard he sets up. This conduct was no 
doubt all the more trying for Tourgenef, because Tolstoy 
neither co-operated with the Liberal movement then current, 
nor lived more abstemiously with regard to food, wine, 
women, and cards than others of his set whom he scolded ; 
or if he did so, he did it so spasmodically and with such 
serious lapses, as to be little entitled to condemn others 
with the fervour he frequently displayed. On the occasion 


of the great quarrel Tourgenef was certainly the aggressor, 
and his prompt apology was not addressed to Tolstoy, 
whom he had chiefly offended, but to Mrs. Fet. It is, 
however, plain that he acted, as he said, on the irritable 
impulse of the moment. Tolstoy aggravated matters by 
sending a challenge before receiving a reply to his first 
letter, and also by suggesting that he despised Tourgenef 
and pardoned him for reasons ^ he may himself surmise/ 
Again, in relation to Fet who merely wished to pour oil on 
the troubled waters, Tolstoy showed a strange irritability. 
No one however can read the Becollectiowt Fet wrote 
thirty years later, without seeing that that poet — who not 
only witnessed this affair, but had been the confidant of 
both writers for years — respected Tolstoy far more than he 
respected Tourgenef. 

In this whole story, one may detect traces of the quali- 
ties which have made Tolstoy so interesting and so per- 
plexing a personality. He cares intensely about everything 
with which he is occupied. Tourgenef, and TourgeneFs 
opinions and conduct, were of tremendous importance to 
him. So were his own views of how young ladies should 
be brought up. So was the question whether he ought to 
challenge his enemy ; and, later on, the question whether he 
ought to forgive him, and whether Fet should be allowed to 
act as mediator. It is this fact — that he cares about things 
a hundred times more than other people ciu'c about them 
— that makes Tolstoy a genius and a great writer. What 
was admirable in his conduct yras not that he acted well 
(as a matter of fact he acted very badly) but that he vnshed 
to act well. 

The same spirit which made him so intolerant with 
Tourgenef: his strong feeling that 'To whom much is 
given, of him much shall be required ** — had something 
to do, later in life, with his fierce attacks on Govern- 
ments, on Shakespear, on Wagner, and on other great 
institutions and men. At the same time, the incident 


throws light on that side of Tolstoy'^s eharacter which has 
brought it about that, despite the very real charm he 
possesses, and despite the fact that many men and women 
have been immensely attracted by his writings, he has had 
very few intimate friends, and has constantly been mis- 

V. P. Bdtkin, who was in touch both with Tolstoy and 
Tourgenef, wrote to Fet after hearing of the quarrel : 

The scene between him [Tourgenef] and Tolstoy at your 
house^ produced on rae a sad impression. But do you know^ 
I believe that in reality Tolstoy has a passionately loving soul ; 
only he wants to love Tourg6nef ardently, and unfortunately 
his impulsive feeling encounters merely mild, good-natured in- 
difference. That is what he cannot reconcile himself to. And 
then (again unfortunately) his mind is in a chaos, ue. I wish to 
say it has not yet reached any definite outlook on life and the 
world's affairs. That is why his conviction changes so often, and 
why he is so apt to run to extremes. His soul bums with un- 
quenchable thirst; I say 'unquenchable,' because what satisfied it 
yesterday, is to-day broken up by his analysis. But that analysis 
has no durable and firm reagents, and consequently its results 
evaporate itts bhue hinein. Without some firm ground under 
one's feet it is impossible to write. And that is why at present 
he cannot write, and this will continue to be the case till his 
soul finds something on which it can rest. 

To any one acquainted with the history of Russia at 
that period, but not acquainted with Tolstoy's idiosyn- 
crasies, it must indeed seem strange that the story of his 
life can be told with so little reference to the Emancipation 
or the Reform movements of the years 1860-1864, to which 
allusion has already been made. Two passages written 
by him in 1904 state his relation to those movements 
with the sincerity which is so prominent and valuable 
a feature of his charac^ter : 

As to my attitude at that time to the excited condition 
of our whole society, I must say (and this is a good and bad 


trait always characteristic of me) that I always involuntarily 
opposed any external, epidemic pressure ; and that if I was 
excited and happy at that time^ this proceeded from my own 
persona], inner motives ; those which drew me to my school 
work and into touch with the peasants. 

I recognise in myself now the same feeling of resistance 
to the excitement at present prevailing ; which resembles that 
which, in a more timid form, was then current. 

When the Emancipation came, the peasants received 
freedom, and an allotment of land, subject to a special 
land-tax for sixty years ; while their masters retained the 
rest of the land and received State Bonds for the capitalised 
value of the peasants' land-tax. An expedient resorted to 
by many a proprietor was, to allot land to the peasants in 
such a way that the latter were left without any pasture, 
and (being surrounded by the owner''s estate) found them- 
selves obliged to hire pasture land of him on his own terms. 
There were, till the Emancipation, two ways of holding 
serfs: (1) the primitive way of obliging them to work 
so many days a week for their master, before they could, 
on the other days, provide for their own wants ; and (2) 
another way, which left the serf free to work for himself, 
provided that he paid obrok^ i.e, a certain yearly tribute to 
his owner. These explanations will render intelligible the 
second passage refen-ed to above and quoted below : 

Some three or four years before the Emancipation, 1 let my 
serfs go on obwk. When complying with the Emancipation 
Decree I arranged, as the law required, to leave the peasants 
in possession of the land they were cultivating on their own 
behalf, which amounted to rather less than eight acres per head, 
and (to ray shame be it said) 1 added nothing thereto. The 
only thing I did — or the one evil I refrained from doing — was 
that I abstained from obliging the peasants to exchange land 
(as I was advised to do) and left them in possession of the 
pasture they needed. In general, however, 1 did not show any 
disinterested feeling in the affair. 


In the first edition of Tolstoy and his Problems I 
erroneously stated that Tolstoy, before the Decree of 
Emancipation, voluntarily freed his serfs ; and though this 
was corrected in the second edition, it is necessary to 
repeat the correction here, as the mistake has found its way 
into the Encychpcedia Britannica, I therefore quote the 
following passage from a letter Tolstoy wrote me on the 
subject : 

I have received your book and read it with pleasure. The 
short biography is excellent^ except the place where you^ quot- 
ing the words of Sophia Andreyevna^ say that ' he liberated his 
peasants before the Emancipation.' That is wrong : I placed 
them on ohrdk instead of keeping them on hdrstchiiia [t.e. the 
state in which the peasants rendered labour dues]. It would 
not have been possible to emancipate them. . . . 

Tolstoy^'s curious tendency to underrate the influence of 
the Liberal reformers of that time, may be illustrated by 
an incident that occurred at a dinner in Toula. 
The local elections had taken place, and a public 
banquet was given in honour of those Arbiters of the 
Peace who were visiting the town. Tolstoy was at this 
dinner, and when the toast to the health of Alexander II, 
the * Tsar-Liberator,"* was proposed, Tolstoy remarked to 
his neighbour : * I drink this toast with particular pleasure. 
No others are needed, for in reality we owe the Emancipa- 
tion to the Emperor alone.** 

A yet more curious instance of the same tendency occurs 
in an article on Progress^ and the Definition of Education^ 
which he published a year later, and in which, arguing that 
printing has been of little use to the people, he says 

Even taking as an example the abolition of serfdom, I do 
not see that printing helped the solution of the problem in a 
progressive sense. Had the Government not said its decisive 
word in that affair^ the press would^ beyond a doubt, have 



explained matters in quite a different way to what it did. We 
saw that most of the periodicals would hare demanded the 
emancipation of the peasants without any land^ and would have 
produced arguments apparently just as reasonable^ witty and 
sarcastic [as they actually produced in favour of the more 
Liberal solution ultimately adopted]. . . . 

If, however, Tolstoy did not stand in the ranks of the 
Reformers, he was much less of a partisan of his own class 
than many of his fellow-nobles desired ; and we find the 
Marshal of the Nobility of Toula writing to Valouef, 
Minister of Home Affairs, complaining of Tolstoy'^s appoint- 
ment as Arbiter of the Peace on the ground that he was 
disliked by the neighbouring landowners. In consequence 
of this complaint Valoiief made inquiries, and received a 
^confidentiaP reply from the Governor of the Ptovince, 
stating that : 

Knowing Count Tolstoy personally^ as an educated man 
warmly sympathising with the matter in hand, and in view of 
a wish expressed to me by some of the proprietors of the 
district that he should be appointed Arbiter, 1 cannot replace 
him by some one 1 do not know. 

Tolstoy tried his best to act fairly between peasants and 
landowners ; but from the start his unsuitability for duties 
involving methodical care was obvious. 

The very first * charter," regulating the relations between 
a landlord and his newly- liberated peasants, that he sent 
up to the Government Board for Peasant Affairs, was 
signed as follows : * At the request of such-and-such 
peasants, because of their illiteracy, the house-serf so-and-so 
has signed this charter for them.'' Not a single name did 
the charter contain ! As Tolstoy had dictated the words, 
so his servant had written them down, and the t-harter had 
been sealed and sent oft* without being read over. 

He could at times be wonderfully patient in dealing 
with the peasants, though they were exasperatingly perti- 


nacious in demanding more than it was possible to grant. 
An eye-witness tells how Tolstoy visited a neighbouring 
estate on which differences had arisen between the peasants 
and their former master, &s to the land which should be 
allotted to them. Tolstoy received a deputation, consist- 
ing of three of the leading peasants of the village, and 
asked them : 

* Well, lads, what do you want ? "* 

They explained what land they wished to have, and 
Tolstoy replied, * I am very sorry I can'^t do what you 
wish. Were I to do so I should cause your landlord a 
great loss ' ; and he proceeded to explain to them how the 
matter stood. 

^ But you Ml manage it for us somehow, bdtushka ' 
[literally, * little-father'], said the peasants. 

* No, I can"'t do anything of the kind,** repeated ToLstoy. 
The peasants glanced at one another, scratched their 

heads, and reiterated their ^ But somehow, bdtushka ! ' and 
one of them added, * K only you want to, bdtushka^ you '11 
know how to find a way to do it ! ' at which the other 
peasants nodded their heads approvingly. 

Tolstoy crossed himself, as orthodox Russians are wont 
to do, and said : ' As God is holy, I swear that I can be of 
no use at all to you.' But still the peasants repeated : 
* You '11 take pity on us, and do it somehow, bdtiishka ! ' 
Tolstoy at last turned vehemently to the steward, who 
was present, and said : * One can sooner, like Amphion, 
move the hills and woods, than convince peasants of any- 
thing ! ' 

The whole conversation, says the steward, lasted more 
than an hour, and up to the last minute the Count retained 
his patient and friendly manner towards the peasants. 
Their obstinacy did not provoke him to utter a single 
harsh word. 

With the landowners Tolstoy had even more trouble 
than with the peasants. He received many threatening 


letters, plans were formed to have him beaten, he was to 
have been challenged to a duel ; and denunciations against 
him were sent to those in authority. 

After some three months of the work, in July 1861, he 
jotted down in his Diary : * Arbitration has given me but 
little material [for literary work], has brought me into 
conflict with all the landed-proprietors, and has upset my 

Here is a sample of the cases he had to deal with. A 
Mrs. Artuk(>f complained that a certain Mark Grigdref 
(who had been a house-serf, and was therefore not entitled 
to land) had left her, considering himself to be < perfectly 

Tolstoy, in his reply to the lady, said : 

Mark^ by my order, is at liberty to go immediately, with his 
wife, where he likes; and I beg you (1) to compensate him for 
the three-and-a-half months he has been illegally kept at work 
by you since the Decree was published, and (2) for the blows 
still more illegally inflicted on his wife. If my decision dis- 
pleases you, you have a right of appeal to the Magistrates' 
Sessions and to the Government Sessions. I shall not enter 
into further explanations on this subject. — With entire respect 
I have the honour to remain, your humble servant, 

C^- L. Tolstoy. 

The lady appealed to the Magistrates" Sessions, €md 
Tolstoy"*s decision was repealed ; but on the case being 
carried to the Government Sessions, his view of the case 

Before he had been a year in office we find him writing 
to the Government of the Toula Board of Peasant Affairs 
as follows : 

As the complaints [here follows a list of several cases] lodged 
against my decisions have no legal justification, but yet in 
these and many other cases my decisions have been and are 
being repealed, so that almost every decision I give is subse- 


quently reversed; and as under such conditions — destructive 
both of the peasants' and the landowners' confidence in the 
Arbiter — the latter's activity becomes not merely useless but 
impossible^ I humbly request the Government Board to authorise 
one of its members to hasten the examination of the above- 
mentioned appeals^ and I have to inform the Government 
Board that until such investigations are completed I do not 
consider it proper that I should exercise the duties of 
my office^ which I have^ therefore^ handed over to the senior 

The following month he resumed official work, but six 
weeks later, on 30th April 1862, on the score of ill-health, 
he handed the duties over to a substitute ; and on 26th 
May — about a year after he had first assumed the office — 
the Senate informed the Governor of Toula that it * had 
decided to discharge the Lieutenant of Artillery, Count 
Leo Tolstoy, on the ground of ill-health ^ from the post 
of Arbiter of the Peace. 

His unsatisfactory experience of administrative work no 
doubt helps in some degree to account for the anti- 
Governmental bias shown in his later works. His favourite 
author, Rousseau, felt much in the same way, when he wrote 
in his Confessions : 

The justice and the inutility of my appeals left in my mind 
a germ of indignation against our stupid civil institutions^ in 
which the true welfare of the public, and veritable justice, are 
always sacrificed to I know not what apparent order, really 
destructive of all order, and which merely adds the sanction of 
public authority to the oppression of the weak and the iniquity 
of the strong. 

We may at any rate be sure that tiresome, petty admini- 
strative work, never quite satisfactory, but at best consist- 
ing of compromises and of decisions based on necessity 
rather than on such principles of abstract justice as are 
dear to Tolstoy'^s soul, could never be an occupation satis- 
factory to him. He has not the plodding patience and 


studious moderation that such work demands ; nor could 
his impulsive genius find scope in it. It has never been 
easy for him to be checked by others, or to have to reckon 
with their opinions and wishes. Like Rousseau, it suits 
him better to reform the world on paper, or even to alter 
his own personal habits of life, than to concern himself 
with the slow social progress, the bit-by-bit amelioration, 
which alone is possible to those harnessed to the car that 
carries a whole society of men. 

Tolstoy used at this time to find recreation in hunting, 
and often went out for days together with his friend and 
relation Prince D. D. Obolensky, who describes him as 
having been a bold and active hunter, leaping all sorts of 
obstacles, and a wonderful man to talk to. 

Concurrently with his duties as Arbiter, Tolstoy had 
been carrying on an enterprise in which he had to deal 
with people younger and more easy to mould than the 
peasants and proprietors whose quarrels he found it so 
hard to adjust; and during the winter of 1861-1862 he 
devoted himself with especial fervour to the task of supply- 
ing education to the peasant children of Ytisnaya and the 
surrounding district. 

As we have already seen, a chief aim of his travels 
abroad had been to study the theory and practice of educa- 
tion ; and not only did he now personally devote himself to 
the school at Ytisnaya, but in the surrounding neighbourhood 
eleven similar schools were soon started, all more or less 
inspired by his ideals and encouraged by his co-operation. 
The monthly magazine, Ydsnaya Poly ana (now a biblio- 
graphical rarity) which he produced and edited during 
1862, aimed at propagating his theories of education and 
making known the results attained in his school, and it also 
contained an account of sums contributed for the support 
of the school. From articles published in it (and re- 
published in his collected writings) we get a vivid descrip- 
tion of the work carried on in November and December 


1861.^ Like many Russian magazines, Yamaya P6bf6na 
always appeared late, and, to begin with, the January 
number did not appear till February. 

In this educational work, Tolstoy showed the qualities 
and limitations which in later years marked all his pro- 
pagandist activity. There was the same characteristic 
selection of a task of great importance ; the same readiness 
to sweep aside and condemn nearly all that civilised 
humcmity had accomplished up to then ; the same assur- 
ance that he could untie the Gordian knot ; and the same 
power of devoted genius enabling him really to achieve 
more than one would have supposed possible, though not a 
tithe of what he set himself to do. 

In later life Tolstoy laid no particular emphasis on what 
he wrote in these educational articles : in fact, we shall 
find him speaking very scornfully of some of these writings ; 
but they throw so much light on his then state of mind, 
and often come so near to the views which strongly affected 
him twenty or thirty years later, that it will be worth 
devoting a good deal of attention to them. 

Tolstoy, then, defines Education as : a human activitj/^ 
having for its basis a desire for eqiudity^ and the constant 
tendency to advance in knowledge. This he illustrates by 
saying that the aim of a te€u;her of arithmetic should be to 
enable his pupil to grasp all the laws of mathematical 
reasoning he himself is master of ; the aim of a teacher of 
French, or chemistry, or philosophy, should be similar ; and 
as soon as that aim is attained, the activity will naturally 
cease. Everywhere and always, teaching which makes the 
pupil the master's equal, has been considered good. The 
more nearly and rapidly this is accomplished, the better ; the 

* In one edition after another of Tolstoy's works, the article referred to 
above is called * Yasno-Polydna School in Nov. and Dec. 1862,' though the 
article itself appeared in the first number of Ydsnaya Poiydna, in March of 
that year. This is an instance of the carelessness with which, even in 
Russia, Tolstoy's works have been edited. 


less nearly and more slowly it is accomplished, the worse. 
Similarly in literature (an indirect method of teaching) 
those books are written best, in which the author succeeds 
in transmitting his whole message most easily to the 

By ^ the constant tendency to advance in knowledge,^ 
Tolstoy meant that the equality aimed at in education can 
only be obtained on the higher, and not on the lower, 
level : that is to say, not by the teacher forgetting 
what he knows, but by the pupil acquiring the teacher^s 
knowledge. Much tuition however is based not on 
the desire to equalise knowledge, but on quite false 

These are : (1) First and commonest, the child learns in 
order not to be punished ; (2) the child learns in order to 
earn a reward ; (3) the child learns in order to be better 
than others ; (4) the child, or young man, learns in order 
to obtain an advantageous position in the world. . . . 

With reference to the practice of sending boys to school, 
not for their natural development, but that they may be 
moulded into a set form, Tolstoy declares that * Education, 
as a deliberate moulding of people into certain forms, is 
sterile^ illegitimate^ and impossible* 

Of examinations he strongly disapproves, as tending to 
arbitrariness on the side of the examiners, and deception 
on the side of the pupils. 

Under what circumstances, asks Tolstoy, can a pupil 
acquire knowledge most rapidly ? ^ A child or a man is 
receptive only when he is aroused ; and therefore to regard 
a merry spirit in school as an enemy or a hindrance, is the 
crudest of blunders. 

The pupiPs state of mind is the most important con- 
dition of successful education ; and to secure good results, 
freedom is indispensable. No child should be forced to 
learn what it does not want to, or when it does not 
wish to. 


One need only glance at one and the same child at home or 
in the street, and at school. Here you see a vivacious, inquisi- 
tive being, with a smile in his eye and on his mouth, seeking 
information everywhere as a pleasure, and clearly, and often 
forcibly, expressing his thoughts in his own way ; while there 
you see a weary, shrinking creature repeating, merely with his 
lips, some one else's thoughts in some one else's words, with an 
air of fatigue, fear and listlessness : a creature whose soul has 
retreated like a snail into its shell. One need but glance at 
these two conditions to see which of them is the more con- 
ducive to the child's development. That strange physiological 
condition which I call the * School state of mind,' and which 
unfortunately we all know so well, consists in all the higher 
capacities : imagination, creative power and reflection, yielding 
place to a semi-animal capacity to pronounce words without 
imagination or reflection. 

When the pupils have been reduced to this * School state 
of mind ** we encounter those ' not accidental, but often- 
repeated cases,^ of the stupidest boy being at the top of 
the class, and the cleverest boy at the bottom. 

In short, a child's mental capacities are really active 
only when that child is free ; and the teacher'^s chief task 
lies * in studying the free child ** and discovering how to 
supply him with knowledge. Therefore * the only method 
of education is experiment, and its only criterion is 

The attempts to enforce obedience and quiet in school- 
rooms, converts schools into places of torture which 
have a stupefying effect, well called by the Germans 

In Germany nine-tenths of those who pass through the 
primary schools leave them possessed of an ability to read and 
write mechanically, but imbued with so strong a loathing for 
the experience they have had of the paths of knowledge, that 
they subsequently never take a book in their hands. Let 
those who doubt what I say, point out to me what books are 
read by the labourers. ... No one who will seriously consider 


the education of the people, not only in Russia but also in the 
rest of Europe, can help coming to the conclusion that the 
people get their mental development quite independently of a 
knowledge of reading and writing, and that usually, except in 
a few cases of exceptional ability, these rudiments remain a 
quite unapplied art — which is even harmful, since nothing in 
life can remain indifferent . . . 

Schools are not so arranged as to make it convenient for 
children to learn, but so as to make it convenient for teachers 
to teach. The voices, movements and mirth of the children, 
which form a necessary condition of their studying successfully, 
incommode the teachers, and therefore in the prison-like 
schools of to-day, questions, conversation, and movement are 

Schools based on compulsion, supply * not a shepherd for 
the flock, but a flock for the shepherd/ 

To deal successfully with any object, it is necessary to study 
it, and in education the object is a free child ; yet the peda- 
gogues wish to teach in their own way — the way that seems 
good in their own eyes ; and when this does not act, they want 
not to alter their way of teaching but the nature of the child. 
. . . Not till experiment becomes the basis of the School, and 
every school is, so to say, a pedagogic laboratory, will schools 
cease to lag behind the general level of the world's progress. 

For boarding-schools Tolstoy had scant respect : 

At home all the comforts of life — water, fires, good food, 
a well-cooked dinner, the cleanliness and comfort of the rooms 
— all depended on the work and care of the mother and of the 
whole family. The more work and care, the greater the com- 
fort; the less work and care, the less comfort. A simple 
matter this no doubt, but more educational I think, than the 
French language or a knowledge of Alexander the Great. 
In a boarding-school, this constant vital reward for labour is 
so put out of sight, that not only is the dinner no better 
or worse, the napkins no cleaner or dirtier, and the floors 


no brighter or duller, because of the girl's exertion or non- 
exertion, but she has not even a cell or comer of her own to 
keep straight or leave untidy at her pleasure^ and she has no 
chance of making a costume for herself out of scraps and 

His general charge against day-schools, boarding-schools 
and universities alike is that : 

At the base of them all lies one and the same principle : the 
right of one man^ or of a small group of men^ to shape other 
people as they like. 

He adds that : 

It is not enough for School to tear children away from real life 
for six hours a day during the best years of their life : it wishes 
to tear three-year-old children from their mother's influence. 
Institutions have been contrived (Kleinkinderbewakransiallen, 
infant schools^ salles (Tasile) about which we shall have to speak 
more in detail later on. It only remains to invent a steam- 
engine which will replace the nursing mother ! All agree that 
schools are imperfect ; I^ personally^ am convinced that they 
are noxious. 

He argues that no man or set of men has any right to 
force any particular kind of education on any one else. 
The teacher has no right to do more than offer such 
knowledge as he possesses, and he should respect the 
child'^s right to reject it as indigestible, or as badly 
served up : 

On what grounds does the School of to-day teach this and 
not that^ and in this and not that way ? 

Where, in our day, can we get such faith in the indubita- 
bility of our knowledge as would give us a right to educate 
people compulsorily ? Take any medieval school, before or 
after Luther, take the whole scholastic literature of the Middle 
Ages, what a strength of beUef and what a firm, indubitable 
knowledge of what was true and what was false, we see in 
them ! It was easy for them to know that a knowledge of 


Greek was the one essential condition of education; for 
Aristotle's works were in Greeks and no one doubted the 
truth of his propositions till centuries later. How could the 
monks help demanding the study of the Holy Scriptures, 
which stood on an immovable foundation? It was well for 
Luther to demand the compulsory study of Hebrew, being 
sure, as he was, that in that language God himself has revealed 
the truth to man. Evidently^ as long as man's critical sense 
was not aroused, the school had to be dogmatic ; and it was 
natural for pupils to learn by heart the truths revealed by God, 
as well as Aristotle's science and the poetic beauties of Virgil 
and Cicero. For centuries after, no one could imagine any 
truer truth, or more beautiful beauty. But what is the position 
of the schools of our time, which retain these same dogmatic 
principles, while in the room next the class where the im- 
mortality of the soul is taught, it is suggested to the pupils 
that the nerves common to man and to the frog are what was 
formerly called ' the soul ' ; and where after hearing the story 
of Joshua the son of Nun read to him without explanations, 
the pupil learns that the sun never did go round the earth ; 
and when after the beauties of Virgil have been explained to 
him^ he finds the beauties of Alexandre Dumas (whose novels 
he can buy for sixpence) much greater ; when the only belief 
held by the teacher is that nothing is true, but that whatever 
exists is reasonable ; and that progress is good and backward- 
ness bad, though nobody knows in what this progress, that is so 
generally believed in, consists } 

In another article he says : 

Luther insists on teaching the Holy Scriptures from the 
originals, and not from the commentaries of the Fathers of the 
Church. Bacon enjoins the study of Nature from Nature, and 
not from the books of Aristotle. Rousseau wants to teach 
life from life itself as he understands it, and not from previous 
experiments. Each step forward in the philosophy of peda- 
gogics merely consists in freeing the schools from the idea 
of teaching the younger generations what the elder generations 
believed to be science, and in substituting studies that accord 
with the needs of the younger generations. 


Again, he says 

It is very usual to read and hear it said that the home 
conditions, the coarseness of parents^ field labour, village 
games and so forth, are the chief hindrances to school-work. 
Possibly they really interfere with the kind of school-work 
aimed at by the pedagogues; but it is time we understood 
that those conditions are the chief bases of all education, and 
far from being inimical to^ or hindrances of the School^ are its 
first and chief motive power. . . . The wish to know an3rthing 
whatever, and the very questions to which it is the School's 
business to reply, arise entirely from these home conditions. 
All instruction should be simply a reply to questions put by 
life. But School, far from evoking questions^ fails even to 
answer those which life suggests. ... To such questions the 
child receives no reply ; more especially as the police regulations 
of the School do not allow him to open his mouth, even when he 
wants to be let out for a minute, but obliges him to make signs 
in order not to break the silence or disturb the teacher. 

The great questions then, are: (1) What must I 
teach? and (2) How must I teach it? A couple of 
centuries ago, says Tolstoy, neither in Russia nor in 
Western Europe could these questions have arisen. 
Education was then bound up with religion, and to 
become a scholar meant to learn the Scriptures. In 
Mohammedan countries this union of religion with educa- 
tion still exists in full force. To learn, means to learn 
the Koran, and therefore to learn Arabic. But as soon as 
the criterion of what to learn ceased to be religion, and 
the School became independent of the Church, the question 
of what to teach was bound to arise. That it did not arise 
suddenly, was due to the fact that the emancipation of 
the School from the Church took place gradually. But 
the day has at last come when the question must be faced, 
and no clear guidance is given us either by philosophy 
or by any definite consensus of opinion among those 
concerned with education. In the higher schools some 


advocate a classical, others a scientific, education ; while 
in the primary schools, if the education is controlled by 
the priests it is carried on in one way, and if it is con- 
trolled by the anti-clericals it is carried on in another. 
Under these circumstances the only possible criterion must 
be the wish of the pupils or of their i)arents. Tolstoy 
then goes on to maintain that the demand of the mass of 
the Russian people is for tuition in the Russian and 
Ecclesiastico-Slavonic languages, and for mathematics. 

As to how to teach, he contends that this resolves 
itself into the question, How to establish the best possible 
relations between those who want to learn and those who 
want to teach, and he says : 

No one, probably^ will deny that the best relation between 
a teacher and his pupils is a natural one^ and that the opposite 
to a natural one is a compulsory one. If that be so, then the 
measure of all scholastic methods consists in the greater or 
lesser naturalness, and consequently in the less or more 
compulsion employed. The less the children are compelled, 
the better is the method ; the more they are compelled, the 
worse is the method. I am glad that it is not necessary for 
me to prove this obvious truth. All are agreed that it cannot 
be good for health to employ foods, medicines, or exercises 
which create disgust or pain ; and so also in learning, there can 
be no need to compel children to grind at anything dull or 
repugnant to them ; and if it seems necessary to use com- 
pulsion, that fact can merely prove the imperfection of the 
methods employed. All who have taught children have 
probably noticed that the worse the teacher knows the subject 
he is dealing with and the less he likes it, the more he has to 
be stem and the more compulsion he has to use ; while on the 
contrary, the better the teacher knows and loves his subject, 
the more free and natural will be his tuition. 

If history be closely examined, it will be found that every 
advance in pedagogics has consisted merely in a diminution of 
compulsion, a facilitation of study, and a greater and greater ap- 
proach to naturalness in the relations between teacher and pupil. 


People have asked, How can we find the degree of freedom 
to be allowed in school ? To which I reply that the limit of 
that freedom is naturally defined by the teacher, by his know- 
ledge, and by his capacity to manage the school. Such 
freedom cannot be dictated ; its measure is merely the result 
of the greater or lesser knowledge and talent possessed by the 
master. Freedom is not a rule, but it serves as a gauge when 
comparing one school with another, or when judging of new 
methods. The school in which there is less compulsion, is 
better than the one in which there is more. That method 
is good which, when introduced into a school, does not 
necessitate any increase of discipline; while that is certainly 
bad which necessitates greater severity. 

From his main subject of Education, Tolstoy digresses 
in these articles into a discussion of other problems, in a 
way which reminds one of those wonderful essays he began 
to pour forth a quarter of a century later. 

That he had been somewhat influenced by the Slavophils 
is indicated by his readiness to assume that Russia may 
advance along a line of her own, entirely different to that 
the Western nations have travelled. * Progress,' in which 
like almost all his contemporaries he had believed, he 
now questions ; and he indulges in a sharp attack on 
Macaulay for the third chapter of his History^ which he 
says contains no proof that any real progress had been 
achieved. Buckle, similarly, is roughly handled for the 
assumption of progress that underlies his History of 
Civilisation; but most scathing of all is his onslaught 
upon Hegel, who (till Darwin appeared) was the rock on 
which many of the intellectual Liberals took their stand. 

From the time of Hegel and his famous aphorism : ' What 
is historic is reasonable,' a very queer mental hocus-pocus has pre- 
vailed in literary and in verbal disputes, especially among us, 
under the name of Hhe historic view.' You say, for instance, that 
man has a right to freedom, or to be tried on the basis of laws of 
which he himself approves ; but the historic view replies that 


history evolves a certain historic moment conditioning a certain 
historic legislation and a people's historic relation thereto. 
You say you believe in a God ; and the historic view replies 
that history evolves certain historic views and humanity's 
relation to those views. You say the Iliad is the greatest of 
epic works ; and the historic view replies that the Iliad is 
merely the expression of the historic consciousness of a people 
at a certain historic moment. On this basis, the historic view 
does not dispute with you as to whether man needs freedom, 
or whether there is or is not a God^ or whether the Iliad is good 
or bad : it does nothing to establish the freedom you desire ; 
to persuade or dissuade you of the existence of a God or of the 
beauty of the Iliad ; it merely points out to you the place your 
inner need or your love of truth or beauty, occupy in history. 
It merely recognises — and recognises not by direct cognition, 
but by historic ratiocination. 

Say that you love or believe anything, and the historic view 
tells you : ' Love and believe, and your love and faith will find 
their place in our historic view. Ages will pass and we shall 
find the place you are to occupy in history. Know however in 
advance, that what you love is not absolutely beautiful, and what 
you believe in is not absolutely true ; yet amuse yourselves, chil- 
dren : your love and faith will find their place and application.' 

It is only necessary to add the word 'historic' to any con- 
ception you like, and that conception loses its real vital 
meaning, in an artificially-formed historic world-conception. 

Of the introduction of telegraphs and railways he 
remarks that people attribute great importance to these 
inventions, and boast of the progress that is being made, 
declaring that : 

* Man is mastering the forces of Nature. Thought, with the 
rapidity of lightning, flies from one end of the world to the 
other. Time is vanquished.' 

This, says Tolstoy, is excellent and touching. 

But let us see who gains by it. We are speaking of the 
progress of the electric telegraph. Evidently the advantage 


and use of the telegraph is reserved for the upper, so-called 
* educated ' class ; while the people, nine-tenths of the whole, 
only hears the droning of the wires and is hampered by the 
strict laws made for the protection of the telegraph. 

Along the wires flies the thought that the demand for such- 
and-such an article has increased, and that the price must 
therefore be raised ; or the thought that I, a Russian landed 
proprietress, living in Florence, have, thank God, recovered from 
my nervous prostration, and that I embrace my adored husband 
and beg him to send me 40,000 francs as quickly as possible. 

Without going into exact statistics of the messages sent, 
one may be quite sure that they all belong to the kind of 
correspondence of which the above are samples. No peasant 
of YAsnaya Poly^na in the Government of Toula, or any other 
Russian peasant (and let it not be forgotten that the peasants 
form the mass of the people whose welfare * progress' is 
supposed to secure) ever has sent or received, or for a long 
time to come will either send or receive, a single telegram. 
All the messages that fly above his head add no jot to his 
welfare, because all he needs he gets from his own fields and 
his own woods, and he is equally indifferent to the cheapness 
or deamcss of sugar or cotton, to the dethronement of King 
Otho, the speeches of Palmerston and Napoleon III, or the 
feelings of the lady in Florence. All those thoughts that fly 
with the rapidity of lightning round the world, do not increase 
the fertility of his fields nor diminish the strictness of the 
keepers in the squire's or the Crown's forests, nor do they add 
to his or his family's working power, or supply him with 
an extra labourer. All these great thoughts may impair his 
welfare, but cannot secure or further it, and can have but a 
negative interest for him. To the true believers in progress, 
however, the telegraph wires have brought and are bringing 
immense advantages. I do not deny those advantages : I only 
wish to prove that one must not think, or persuade others, 
that what is advantageous for me, is a great blessing to all the 
world. . . . 

In the opinion of the Russian people what increases their 
welfare is an increase of the fertility of the soil, an increase in 
the herds of cattle, an increase of the quantity of grain and its 



consequently becoming cheaper, an increase of working power^ 
an increase in woods and pastures^ and the absence of town 
temptations. (I beg the reader to observe that no peasant 
ever complains of the cheapness of bread ; it is only the 
political economists of Western Europe Avho soothe him with 
the prospect that bread will become dearer and render it more 
possible for him to purchase manufactured articles, about 
which he feels no concern.) 

Which of these benefits does the railway bring to the 
peasant ? It increases the temptations ; it destroys the woods ; 
it draws away labourers ; it raises the price of grain. . . . 

The real people, that is to say those who themselves work 
and live productively — nine-tenths of the whole nation — with- 
out whom no progress is conceivable^ are always hostile to the 
railway. And so what it comes to is this : that the believers 
in ' progress/ a small part of society, say that railways increase 
the welfare of the people ; while the larger part of the nation 
say that the railways decrease it. 

Interesting, stimulating and suggestive as Tolstoy's 
articles were, and valuable as was the experience gained in 
his school, his magazine had very few subscribers and only 
existed for one year : the twelfth number was the last. 

In an article written thirteen years later, he says of his 
attempts in 1861-2 : 

At that time I met with no sympathy in the educational 
journals, nor even with any contradiction, but only with the 
completest indifference to the question I was raising. There 
were, it is true, some attacks on a few insignificant details, but 
the question itself evidently interested no one. I was young 
at that time, and this indifference galled me. I did not under- 
stand that I with my question : How do you know what and 
how to teach ? was like a man who, in an assembly of Turkish 
Pachas discussing how to collect more taxes from the people, 
should say to them : Gentlemen, before discussing how much 
to take from each man, we must first consider what right we 
have to collect taxes at all } Obviously, the Pachas would 
continue to discuss the methods of collecting, and would ignore 
the irrelevant question. 


Before passing on to tell of the actual working of the 
Ydsnaya Polydna school, there is one matter to be noted, 
small indeed in itself, but characteristic, and helpful for the 
understanding of Tolstoy"'s later development. 

Tolstoy's personal honour has never been questioned, 
and the reader will remember that at Sevastopol he flatly 
refused to touch money which, according to the long-stand- 
ing regimental custom, was at his disposal. Well, in his 
magazine he printed a story written by one of the boys 
in the school, and appraised it with enthusiasm. The hero 
of the story, who had been wretchedly poor, returns from 
the army with money to spare, and explains the matter 
to his wife by saying : ^ I was a non-commissioned officer 
and had Crown money to pay out to the soldiers, and 
some remaining over, I kept it.' 

Commenting on this, Tolstoy says : 

It is revealed that the soldier has become rich^ and has done 
so in the simplest and most natural manner^ just as almost 
everybody does who becomes rich — that is^ by other people's, 
the Crown's^ or somebody's^ money remaining in his hands owing 
to a fortunate accident. Some readers have remarked that this 
incident is immoral^ and that the people's conception of the 
Crown as a milch cow should be eradicated and not confirmed. 
But not to speak of its artistic truth, I particularly value that 
trait in the story. Does not the Crown money always stop 
somewhere ? And why should it not, once in a way, stop with 
a homeless soldier like Gord6y ? 

In the views of honesty held by the peasants and the upper 
class, a complete contrast is often noticeable. The peasants' 
demands are specially serious and strict with regard to honesty 
in the nearest relations of life ; for instance, in respect to one's 
family, one's village, or one's commune. In respect to out- 
siders : the public, the Crown, or foreigners or the Treasury 
especially, the applicability of the rules of honesty seems to 
them obscure. A peasant who would never tell a lie to his 
brother peasant, and who would bear all possible hardships for 
the sake of his family, and not take a farthing from a fellow- 


▼illager or neighbour without having fully earned it — ^will be 
ready to squeeze a foreigner or a townsman like an orange^ and 
at every second word will lie to a gentleman or an official. If 
he is a soldier, he will without the slightest twinge of conscience 
stab a French prisoner, and should Crown money come his way, 
he would consider it a crime to his family not to take it. In 
the upper class, on the contrary, it is quite the reverse. ... I 
do not say which is better, I only say what I believe to be the 
case. . . . 

To return to the story. The mention of the Crown money^ 
which at first seems immoral, in our opinion has a most sweet 
and touching character. How often a writer of our circle, 
when wishing to show his hero as an ideal of honesty, naively 
displays to us the dirty and depraved nature of his own imagina- 
tion ! Here, on the contrary, the author has to make his hero 
happy. His return to his family would suffice for that, but it 
was also necessary to remove the poverty which for so many 
years had weighed on the family. Where was he to take money 
from ? From the impersonal Crown ! If the author is to 
give him wealthy it has to be taken from some one, and it 
could not have been found in a more legitimate or reasonable 

No doubt Tolstoy's statement of peasant morality is 
true enough ; but Tolstoy's attitude towards the matter 
is remarkable. He has always had a keen sense of personal 
morality, but when public morality was in question, his 
decisions seem to me often to have been at fault. 

Passing from the moral to the economic aspect of the 
question, to Western ears it sounds strange to hear the 
medieval or Oriental conception so boldly announced, that 
property * has to be taken from some one ' before it can 
be obtained. In our world, wealth has, during the last 
five generations, been increased enormously by inventions, 
by organisation, by division of labour, by the skilful utilisa- 
tion of the forces of Nature, as well as by co-o|>eration and 
the bringing together into one place of industries and 
individuals mutually helpful ; and it has become im- 


possible for us to believe that the only way to obtain 
wealth is by depriving some one else of wealth they already 




Tolstoy's letter to A. Maude. 

Tolstoy's Educational Articles. 

Ldwenfeld's Leo N. ToUtoj. 



Yasno-Polyana Scbool. Freedom in class. Natural laws. 
A fight Tbeft aud punishment A walk and talk on art 
Peasants' opinion of the school. Gymnastics. Reading, 
'riie Bible. Penmanship. Grammar. History. Geography. 
Drawing. Singing. Composition. A literary genius. Art : 
exclusive or universal } Reading useless for lack of what to 
read. The value of freedom in education. A contrast 

As already mentioned, Tolstoy's magazine, besides its 
theoretical articles, contained others describing tl^ie work 
done at the Yasno-Polyaua school, and from these we 
learn in his own words, how Tolstoy and his pupils, and 
the masters (including the young German, Keller, whom 
he had brought back with him from abroad) were occu- 
pied in November and December 1861. The following 
passages are part of his description of the school : 

No one brings anything with him, neither books nor copy- 
books. No homework is set them. Not only do they carry 
nothing in their hands, they have nothing to carry even in 
their heads. They are not obliged to remember any lesson, 
nor any of yesterday's work. They are not tormented by the 
thought of the impending lesson. They bring only themselves, 
their receptive nature, and an assurance that it will be as jolly 
in school to-day as it was yesterday. They do not think of 
their classes till they have begun. No one is ever scolded for 
being late, and they never are late, except perhaps some of the 
older boys whose fathers occasionally keep them at home to do 
some work« In such cases the boy comes to school running 



fast and panting. Until the teacher arrives^ some gather at 
the porch^ pushing one another off the steps or sliding on the 
ice-covered path^ and some go into the rooms. When it is 
cold, while waiting for the master, they read, write, or play 
about. The girls do not mix with the boys. When the boys 
take any notice of the girls, they never address any one of them 
in particular, but always speak to them collectively : ' Hey, 
girls, why don't you come and slide ? ' or, ' Look how frozen 
the girls are,' or, * Now girls, all of you against me ! ' 

Suppose that by the time-table the lesson for the youngest 
class is elementary reading ; for the second, advanced reading ; 
and for the third, mathematics. The teacher enters the room, 
on the floor of which the boys are lying in a heap, shouting, * The 
heap is too small ! ' or, ' Boys, you 're choking me ! ' or, ^ Don't 
pull my hair ! ' etc. 

' Peter Mihiylovitch ! ' cries a voice from the bottom of the 
heap, to the teacher as he enters : * Tell them to stop ! ' — 
' Good morning, Peter Mihaylovitch ! ' cry others, continuing 
their scrimmage. The teacher takes the books and gives them 
to those who have followed him to the cupboard, while from 
the heap of boys on the floor, those on top, still sprawling, 
demand books. The heap gradually diminishes. As soon as 
most of the boys have taken books, the rest run to the cup- 
board crying, * Me too ! Me too ! ' — ^ Give me yesterday's 
book ! ' — * Give me Koltsof ! ' and so forth. If a couple of boys 
excited by their struggle still remain on the floor, those who 
have taken books and settled down, shout at them, ' What are 
you up to ? We can't hear anything ! Stop it ! ' The excited 
ones submit, and, panting, take to their books; and only just 
at first swing their legs with unspent excitement as they sit 
reading. The spirit of war flies away and the spirit of reading 
reigns in the room. With the same ardour with which he 
pulled Mitka's hair, he now reads K61tsof's works : with 
almost clenched teeth, with sparkling eyes, and oblivious of all 
around him but his book. To tear him from his reading now 
would need as much effort as formerly to tear him from his 

They sit where they like : on the benches, tables, window- 
sills, floor, or in the arm-chair. The girls always sit together. 


Friends from the same village, especially the little ones (among 
whom there is most comradeship) always sit together. As soon 
as one of them decides that he will sit in a certain corner^ all 
his chums, pushing and diving under the forms, get there too^ 
and sit together looking about them with faces that express 
as much happiness and satisfaction as though, having settled in 
that place, they would certainly be happy for the rest of their 
lives. The large arm-chair (which somehow found its way into 
the room) is an object coveted by the more independent per- 
sonalities. ... As soon as one of them decides to sit in it, 
another discerns his intention from his looks, and they collide 
and squeeze in. One dislodges the other, and curling up^ 
sprawls with his head far below the back, but reads like the 
rest, quite absorbed in his work. During lessons I have never 
seen them whispering, pinching, giggling, laughing behind 
their hands, or complaining of one another to the teacher. 

The two lower classes sort themselves in one room, the upper 
class in another. The teacher appears, and in the first class all 
surround him at the blackboard, or lie on the forms, or sit on 
the table, near him or near one of the boys who reads. If it is 
a writing lesson, they place themselves in a more orderly way, 
but keep getting up to look at one another's exercise books, 
and to show their own to the teacher. According to the time- 
table there should be four lessons before dinner ; but sometimes 
in practice these become three or two ; and maybe on quite 
other subjects. The teacher may begin with arithmetic and pass 
on to geometry ; or may begin with Sacred History and end up 
with grammar. Sometimes teacher and pupils are so carried 
away, that a lesson lasts three hours instead of one. Sometimes 
the pupils themselves cry : ' Go on, go on ! * and shout con- 
temptuously to any who are tired : ' If you 're tired, go to the 
little ones ! ' 

In my opinion this external disorder is useful and necessary^ 
however strange and inconvenient it may seem to the teacher. 
Of its advantages I shall have frequent occasion to speak ; but 
of its apparent disadvantages I will say : 

First, this disorder, or free order, only frightens us because 
we ourselves were educated in, and are accustomed to, some- 
thing quite different. Secondly, in this as in many similar 


cases, coercion is used only from hastiness or from lack of 
respect for human nature. We think the disorder is growing 
greater and greater, and that it has no limit. We think there 
is no way of stopping it except by force ; but one need only 
wait a little, and the disorder (or animation) calms down of 
itself^ and calms down into a far better and more durable order 
than any we could devise. 

In another place he says : 

Our school evolved freely from the principles brought into 
it by the teachers and pupils. In spite of the predominant 
influence of the teacher, the pupil always had the right not to 
go to school; and even when in school^ not to listen to the 
teacher. The teacher had the right not to admit a pupil. . . . 

Submitting naturally only to laws derived from their own 
nature, children revolt and rebel when subjected to your pre- 
mature interference. They do not believe in the validity of 
your bells and time-tables and rules. How often have I seen 
children fighting. The teacher rushes to separate them, and the 
separated enemies look at one another askance, and even in the 
stern teacher's presence cannot refrain from giving one another 
a parting blow, yet more painful than its predecessors. How 
often, any day, do I see some Kirushka, clenching his teeth, fly 
at Tardska, seize his hair, and throw him to the ground, 
apparently— though it costs him his life — determined to maim his 
foe ; yet not a minute piasses before Taraska is already laughing 
under Kirushka« One, and then the other, moderates his 
blows, and before five minutes have passed they have made 
friends, and off they go to sit together. 

The other day, between lessons, two boys were struggling in 
a comer. The one, a remarkable mathematician about ten 
years old, is in the second class ; the other, a close-cropped lad, 
the son of a servant, is a clever but vindictive, tiny, black-eyed 
lad, nicknamed Pussy. Pussy seized the mathematician's long 
hair and jammed his head against the wall ; the mathematician 
vainly clutched at Pussy's close-cropped bristles. Pussy's black 
eyes gleamed triumphantly. The mathematician, hardly re- 
fraining from tears, kept saying : ' Well^ well, what of it ? ' 


But though he tried to keep up appearances^ it was plain he 
was faring badly. This went on for some time, and I was in 
doubt what to do. * A fight, a fight ! * shouted the boys^ and 
crowded towards the comer. The little ones laughed; but 
the bigger ones, though they did not interfere, exchanged 
serious glances, and their silence and these glances did not 
escape Pussy's observation. He understood that he was doing 
something wrong, and began to smile shamefacedly^ and by 
degrees let go of the mathematician's hair. The mathe- 
matician shook himself free, and giving Pussy a push that 
banged the back of the latter' s head against the wall, went off 
satisfied. Pussy began to cry, and rushed after his enemy, 
hitting him as hard as he could on his sheepskin coat, but 
without hurting him. The mathematician wished to pay him 
back, but at that moment several disapproving voices were 
raised. ' There now ; he 's fighting a little fellow ! ' cried the 
onlookers, ' get away. Pussy ! ' — and therewith the affair ended 
as though it had never occurred, except, I think, that both 
combatants retained a dim consciousness that fighting is un- 
pleasant, because both get hurt. 

In this case I seemed to detect a feeling of fairness influenc- 
ing the crowd ; but how often such affairs are settled so that 
one does not know what law has decided them, and yet both 
sides are satisfied ! How arbitrary and unjust by comparison 
are all School methods of dealing with such cases. * You are 
both to blame : kneel down ! ' says the teacher ; and the 
teacher is wrong, because one boy is in the wrong, and that one 
triumphs while on his knees, and chews the cud of his un- 
expended anger, while the innocent one is doubly punished. . . . 

I am convinced that the School should not interfere with 
that part of education which belongs to the family. The 
School should not, and has no right to, reward or punish ; and 
the best police and administration of a School consist in giving 
full freedom to the pupils to learn and get on among themselves 
as they like. I am convinced of this ; and yet the customary 
School habits are still so strong in us that in the Yasno-Polyana 
school we frequently break this rule. . . . 

During last summer, while the school - house was being 
repaired^ a Ley den jar disappeared from the physical cabinet ; 


pencils disappeared repeatedly, as well as books — and this at 
a time when neither the carpenters nor the painters were 
at work. We questioned the boys. The best pupils^ those 
who had been with us longest, old friends of ours, blushed and 
were so uneasy that any Public Prosecutor would have thought 
their confusion a sure proof of their guilt. But I knew them, 
and could answer for them as for myself. I understood that 
the very idea of being suspected offended them deeply and 
painfully. A gifted and tender-hearted boy^ whom I will call 
Theodore, turned quite pale, trembled and wept. They pro- 
mised to tell me, if they found out ; but they declined to 
undertake a search. A few days later the thief was discovered. 
He was the son of a servant from a distant village. He had 
led astray, and made an accomplice of, a peasant boy from the 
same village ; and together they had hidden the stolen articles 
in a box. This discovery produced a strange feeling in the 
other pupils : a kind of relief and even joy, accompanied by 
contempt and pity for the thief. We proposed that they should 
allot the punishment themselves. Some demanded that the 
thief should be flogged, but stipulated that they should do the 
flogging ; others said : ^ Sew a card on him, with the word 
thief' This latter punishment, to our shame be it said, had 
been used by us before, and it was the very boy who a year ago 
had himself been labelled /tar, who now most insistently 
demanded a card for the thief. We consented, and when one 
of the girls was sewing the card on, all the pupils watched and 
teased the punished boys with malicious joy. They wanted the 
punishment increased : * Let them be led through the village ; 
and let them wear cards till the holidays,' said they. The 
victims cried. The peasant boy who had been led astray by his 
comrade, a gifted narrator and jester, a plump, white, chubby 
little chap, wept without restraint and with all his childish 
might. The other, the chief offender, a hump-nosed boy with 
a thin-featured, clever face, became pale, his lips quivered, his 
eyes looked wildly and angrily at his joyous comrades, and 
occasionally his face was unnaturally distorted by a sob. His 
cap, with a torn peak, was stuck on the very back of his head ; 
his hair was ruffled, his clothes soiled with chalk. All this now 
struck me and everybody else as though we saw it for the first 


time. The unkindly attention of all was directed to him^ and 
he felt it painfully. When, with bent head and without look- 
ing round, he started homeward with (as it seemed to me) a 
peculiar, criminal gait, and when the boys ran after him in 
a crowd, teasing him in an unnatural and strangely cruel 
way as though, against their will, they were moved by some 
evil spirit, something told me that we were not doing right. 
But things took their course, and the thief wore the card that 
whole day. From this time he began, as it seemed to me, to 
learn worse, and one did not see him playing and talking with 
his fellows out of class. 

One day I came to a lesson, and the pupils informed me, with 
a kind of horror, that the boy had again stolen. He had taken 
twenty copecks (seven pence) in coppers from the teacher s room, 
and had been caught hiding them under the stairs. We again 
hung a card on him ; and again the same revolting scene re- 
commenced. I began to admonish him, as all masters admonish » 
and a big boy, fond of talking, who was present, also ad- 
monished him — probably repeating words he had heard his 
father, an innkeeper, use : * You steal once, and you do it 
again,' said he distinctly, glibly, and with dignity ; ' it becomes 
a habit, and leads to no good.' I began to get vexed. I 
fjflanced at the face of the punished boy, which had become yet 
paler, more suffering and harder than before ; and somehow I 
thought of convicts, and suddenly I felt so ashamed and 
disgusted that I tore the stupid card off him, told him to go 
where he liked, and became convinced — and convinced not by 
reason, but by my whole nature — that I had no right to 
torment that unfortunate boy, and that it was not in my power 
to make of him what I and the innkeeper's son wanted to make 
of him. I became convinced that there are secrets of the soul, 
hidden from us, on which life may act, but which precepts and 
punishments do not reach. 

It may be said that any department of life could be 
treated in this way : we have merely to invert an estab- 
lished order founded on the experience of men, and a 
topsy-turvy millennium is bom. It may also be said that 
in the foregoing pages Tolstoy appears as the evangelist 


of an educational system founded on the free play of 
youthful instincts which, speaking merely the language of 
natural animal life, call for sympathetic discipline. But 
in his Confession Tolstoy has treated his educational writ- 
ings with such scant respect that criticism is disarmed ; 
more especially as the actual working of his school was 
extremely interesting and much more successful than might 
have been expected. 

N. V. Ouspensky, the writer, narrates that he visited 
Ydsnaya Polydna in 1862, and Tolstoy, having to leave 
him alone for awhile, asked him to glance at some of the 
compositions the boys had written in school. Taking up 
one of these, Ouspensky read : 

One day, Ly6f NikolAyevitch (Tolstoy) called Sav6skin up to 
the blackboard and ordered him to solve a problem in arith- 
metic. ' If I give you fiwe rolls, and you eat one of them, how 
many rolls will you have left ? ' . . . Savoskin could nohow solve 
this problem, and the Count pulled his hair for it . . . 

When Tolstoy returned Ouspensky pointed out to him 
this essay, and Tolstoy, sighing heavily, crossed his hands 
before him and merely said : ^ Life in this world is a hard 

Ouspensky considered that he had unearthed an extra- 
ordinary contradiction between theory and practice; but 
no one who realises the difficulty and novelty of Tolstoy's 
attempt, and how far he is from claiming perfection for 
himself or for his achievements, should agree with 
Ouspensky. On the contrary, the essay proves a freedom 
of relation between teacher and pupil, which would 
certainly not have existed had the hair-pulling been other 
than impulsive and exceptional. 

The school was closed, or nearly so, during the summer, 
as most of the pupils then helped their parents with field 
work ; obtaining, Tolstoy considers, more mental development 
that way than they could have done in any school. To make 
up for this, the hours of study in winter were long. 


The classes generally finish about eight or nine o'clock 
(unless carpentering keeps the elder boys somewhat later), and 
the whole band run shouting into the yard, and there, calling 
to one another, begin to separate, making for different parts of 
the village. Occasionally they arrange to coast down-hill to 
the village in a large sledge that stands outside the gate. They 
tie up the shafts, throw themselves into it, and squealing, dis- 
appear from sight in a cloud of snow, leaving here and there on 
their path black patclies of children who have tumbled out In 
the open air, out of school (for all its freedom) new relations 
are formed between pupil and teacher : freer, simpler and more 
trustful ; those very relations which seem to us the ideal which 
School should aim at. 

Not long ago we read G6gors story Viy [an Earth-Spirit] in 
the highest class. The final scenes affected them strongly^ and 
excited their imagination. Some of them played the witch, 
and kept alluding to the last chapters. . . . 

Out of doors it was a moonless, winter night, with clouds in 
the sky, not cold. We stopped at the crossroads. The elder 
boys, in their third year, stopped near me, asking me to accom- 
pany them further. The younger ones looked at us, and 
rushed off down-hill. They had begun to learn with a new 
master, and between them and me there is not the same confi- 
dence as between the older boys and myself. 

* Well, let us go to the wood' (a small wood about 120 yards 
from the house), said one of them. The most insistent was 
F6dka, a boy of ten, with a tender, receptive, poetic yet daring 
nature. Danger seems to form the chief condition of pleasure 
for him. In summer it always frightened me to see how he, 
with two other boys, would swim out into the very middle of 
the pond, which is nearly 120 yards wide, and would now and 
then disappear in the hot reflection of the summer sun, and 
swim under water ; and how he would then turn on his back, 
causing fountains of water to rise, and calling with his high- 
pitched voice to his comrades on the bank to see what a fine 
fellow he was. 

He now knew there were wolves in the wood, and so he 
wanted to go there. All agreed ; and the four of us went to the 
wood. Another boy, a lad of twelve, physically and morally 


strong, whom I will call Sy6mka, went on in front and kept 
calling and 'ah-ou-ing' with his ringing voice, to some one at 
a distance. Pr6nka, a sickly, mild and very gifted lad, from a 
poor family (sickly probably chiefly from lack of food), walked 
by my side. Fedka walked between me and Sy6mka, talking 
all the time in a particularly gentle voice : now relating how 
he had herded horses in summer, now saying there was nothing 
to be afraid of, and now asking, 'Suppose one should jump 
out ? ' and insisting on my giving some reply. We did not go 
into the wood : that would have been too dreadful ; but even 
where we were, near the wood, it was darker, and the road was 
scarcely visible, and the lights of the village were hidden from 
view. Sy6mka stopped and listened : ' Stop, lads ! What is 
that ? ' said he suddenly. 

We were silent, and though we heard nothing, things seemed 
to grow more gruesome, 

' What shall we do if it leaps out . . . and comes at us ? ' 
asked F^dka. 

We began to talk about Caucasian robbers. They remem- 
bered a Caucasian tale I had told them long ago, and I again 
told them of 'braves,' of Cossacks, and of Hddji-Mourdt.^ 
Sy6mka went on in front, treading boldly in his big boots, his 
broad back swaying regularly. Pronka tried to walk by my side, 
but Fddka pushed him off the path, and Pr6nka — who, probably 
on account of his poverty, always submitted — only ran up along- 
side at the most interesting passages, sinking in the snow up to 
his knees. 

Every one who knows anything of Russian peasant children 
knows that they are not accustomed to, and cannot bear, any 
caresses, aflectionate words, kisses, hand touchings, and so 
forth. I have seen a lady in a peasant school, wishing to pet a 
boy, say : ' Come, I will give you a kiss, dear ! ' and actually 
kiss him ; and the boy was ashamed and offended, and could 
not understand why he had been so treated. Boys of five are 
already above such caresses — they are no longer babies. I was 
therefore particularly struck when F6dka, walking beside me, 
at the most terrible part of the story suddenly touched me 

^ The reader will find some particulars about this daring Caucasian leader 
in Chapter X. 


lightly with his sleeve, and then elasped two of my fingers in 
his hand, and kept hold of them. As soon as I stopped speak- 
ing, Fedka demanded that I should go on, and did this in 
such a beseeching and agitated voice that it was impossible not 
to comply with his wish. 

* Now then, don't get in the way ! ' said he once angrily to 
Frt'inka, who had run in front of us. He was so carried away 
as even to be cruel ; so agitated yet happy was he, holding on 
to my fingers, that he could let no one dare to interrupt his 

' Some more ! Some more ! It is fine ! ' said he. 

We had passed the wood and were approaching the village 
from the other end. 

' Let 's go on,' said all the boys when the lights became 
visible. ' Let us take another turn I ' 

We went on in silence, sinking here and there in the rotten 
snow, not hardened by much traffic. A white darkness seemed 
to sway before our eyes ; the clouds hung low, as though some- 
thing had heaped them upon us. There was no end to that 
whiteness, amid which we alone crunched along the snow. 
The wind sounded through the bare tops of the aspens, but 
where we were, behind the woods, it was calm. 

I finished my story by telling how a ' brave,' surrounded by 
his enemies, sang his death-song and threw himself on his 
dagger. All were silent 

' Why did he sing a song when he was surrounded ? ' asked 

^ Weren't you told } — He was preparing for death ! ' replied 
F^dka, aggrieved. 

' I think he sang a prayer,' added Prtmka. 

All agreed. Fedka suddenly stopped. 

' How was it, you told us, your Aunt had her throat cut ? * 
asked he. (He had not yet had enough horrors.) ' Tell us ! 
Tell us!' 

I again told them that terrible story of the murder of the 
Countess Tolstoy,^ and they stood silently about me, watching 
my face. 

* Some details of this crime are given in * Why do Nf en Stupefy Them- 
selves?* in Essays a9ul Letters f published in the IVorhrs Classics. 


' The fellow got caught ! ' said Sy6mka. 

' He was afraid to go away in the nighty while she was lying 
with her throat cut ! ' said F^ka ; ' I should have run away ! ' 
and he gathered my two fingers yet more closely in his hand. 

We stopped in the thicket, beyond the threshing-floor at the 
very end of the village. Sy6mka picked up a dry stick from 
the snow and began striking it against the frosty trunk of a lime 
tree. Hoar frost fell from the branches on to one's cap, and 
the noise of the blows resounded in the stillness of the wood. 

'Ly6f NikolAyevitch/ said F^dka to me (I thought he was 
going again to speak about the Countess), ' why does one learn 
singing } I often think, why, really, does one ? ' 

What made him jump ftora the terror of the murder to this 
question, heaven only knows; yet by the tone of his voice, 
the seriousness with which he demanded an answer, and the 
attentive silence of the other two, one felt that there was some 
vital and legitimate connection between this question and our 
preceding talk. Whether the connection lay in some response 
to my suggestion that crime might be explained by lack of 
education (I had spoken of that) or whether he was testing 
himself — transferring himself into the mind of the murderer and 
remembering his own favourite occupation (he has a wonder- 
ful voice and immense musical talent) or whether the connec- 
tion lay in the fact that he felt that now was the time for 
sincere conversation, and all the problems demanding solution 
rose in his mind — at any rate his question surprised none of us. 

* And what is drawing for } And why write well } ' said I, 
not knowing at all how to explain to him what art is for. 

* What is drawing for?' repeated he thoughtfully. He really 
was asking. What is Art for ? And I neither dared nor could 

' What is drawing for ? ' said Sy6mka. ' Why, you draw any- 
thing, and can then make it from the drawing.' 

' No, that is designing,' said F^dka. ' But why draw figures ? ' 
Sy6mka's matter-of-fact mind was not perplexed. 

* What is a stick for, and what is a lime tree for ? ' said he, 
still striking the tree. 

' Yes, what is a lime tree for ? ' said I. 
' To make rafters of,' replied Sydmka. 



' But what is it for in summer^ when not yet cut down ? ' 

• Then, it 's no use.* 

' No, really/ insisted Fedka ; ' why does a lime tree grow?' 

And we began to speak of the fact that not everything exists 
for use^ but that there is also beauty, and that Art is beauty ; 
and we understood one another, and F6dka quite understood 
why the lime tree grows and what singing is for. 

Pr6nka agreed with us, but he thought rather of moral 
beauty: goodness. 

Sy6mka understood with his big brain, but did not acknow- 
ledge beauty apart from usefulness. He was in doubt (as often 
happens to men with great reasoning power) : feeling Art to 
be a force, but not feeling in his soul the need of that force. 
He, like them, wished to get at Art by his reason, and tried to 
kindle that fire in himself. 

* We '11 sing Who hath to-morrow. I remember my part,' said 
he. (He has a correct ear, but no taste or refinement in singing.) 
F6dka, however, fully understood that the lime tree is good when 
in leaf : good to look at in summer ; and that that is enough. 

Prc'mka understood that it is a pity to cut it down, because 
it, too, has life : 

' Why, when we take the sap of a lime, it 's like taking blood.' 

Sy6mka, though he did not say so, evidently thought that 
there was little use in a lime when it was sappy. 

It feels strange to repeat what we then said, but it seems to 
me that we said all that can be said about utility, and plastic 
and moral beauty. 

W> went on to the village. F^dka still clung to my hand ; 
now, it seemed to me, from gratitude. We all were nearer one 
another that night than we had been for a long time. PnSnka 
walked beside us along the broad village street. 

' See, there is still a light in Mazanof s house,' said he. ' As 
I was going to school this morning, Gavruka was coming from 
the pub, as dru-u-nk as could be ! His horse all in a lather 
and he beating it ! I am always sorry for such things. Really, 
why should it be beaten } ' 

' And the other day, coming from Toiila, my daddy gave his 
horse the reins,' said Sy6mka ; ^ and it took him into a snow- 
drift, and there he slept — quite drunk.' 


* And Gavruka kept on beating his horse over the eyes, and I 
felt so sorry/ repeated Pr6nka again. ' Why should he beat it ? 
He got down and just flogged it.' 

Syoraka suddenly stopped. 

'Our folk are already asleep/ said he, looking in at the 
window of his crooked^ dirty hut. 'Won't you walk a little 
longer ? ' 


' Go-o-od-bye, Lyof Nikoliyevitch ! ' shouted he suddenly, and 
tearing himself away from us, as it were with an effort, he ran 
to the house, lifted the latch and disappeared. 

' So you will take each of us home } First one and then the 
other } * said F^dka. 

We went on. There was a light in Pronka's hut, and we 
looked in at the window. His mother, a tall and handsome 
but toil-worn woman, with black eyebrows and eyes, sat at the 
table, peeling potatoes. In the middle of the hut hung a 
cradle. Pronka's brother, the mathematician from our second 
class, was standing at the table, eating potatoes with salt. It 
was a black, tiny, and dirty hut. 

* What a plague you are ! ' shouted the mother at Pr(Snka. 
' W^here have you been } * 

Pr6nka glanced at the window with a meek, sickly smile. 
His mother guessed that he had not come alone, and her face 
immediately assumed a feigned expression that was not nice. 

Only F^dka was left. 

' The travelling tailors are at our house, that is why there 's 
a light there,' said he in the softened voice that had come to 
him that evening. ' Good-bye, Lyof Nikolayevitch ! ' added he, 
softly and tenderly, and he began to knock with the ring 
attached to the closed door. ' Let me in ! ' his high-pitched 
voice rang out amid the winter stillness of the village. It was 
long before they opened the door for him. I looked in at the 
window. The hut was a large one. The father was playing 
cards with a tailor, and some copper coins lay on the table. 
The wife, F^dka's stepmother, was sitting near the torch-stand, 
looking eagerly at the money. The young tailor, a cunning 
drunkard, was holding his cards on the table, bending them, 
and looking triumphantly at his opponent. Fedka's father, the 


collar of his shirt unbuttoned^ his brow wrinkled with mental 
exertion and vexation, changed one card for another^ and 
waved his homy hand in perplexity above them. 

' Let me in ! * 

The woman rose and went to the door. 

'Good-bye!' repeated F6dka^ once again. 'Let us always 
have such walks ! ' 

Thus Tolstoy for the second time found himself faced 
by the question : What is Art ? which had arisen when he 
spoke to the Society of Lovers of Russian Literature. 
This time it was put to him by a ten-year-old peasant 
boy, and it seemed to him that : * We said all that can be 
said about utility, and plastic and moral beauty." Twenty 
years later, after achieving the highest fame as a literary 
artist, he returned to the subject and tried to write an 
essay on the connection between life and Art, thinking 
that he would be able to accomplish it at a single effort 
It proved, however, as he tells us, ^ that my views on the 
matter were so far from clear, that I could not arrange 
them in a way that satisfied me. From that time I did 
not cease to think of the subject, and I recommenced 
writing on it six or seven times ; but each time, after 
writing a considerable part of it, I found myself unable to 
bring the work to a satisfactory conclusion, and had to 
put it aside." Only after another fifteen years' study and 
reflection did he succeed, in 1898, in producing What «* 
Art f which raised such a storm in the esthetic dovecots, 
and induced the editor of Literature to declare that * There 
was never any reason for inferring that Count Tolstoy's 
opinions on the philosophy of art would be worth tiie 
paper on which they were written ' ; while A. B. Walkley 
was asserting that ^ this calmly and cogently reasoned 
effort to put art on a new basis is a literary event of the 
first importance.' 

We have, however, as yet only reached the year 1862, 
and must not anticipate. 


At first the peasants were rather afraid of the school, 
but before long they gained confidence and the report 
became current among them that : ' At Ydsno-Polydna 
school they learn everything, including all the sciences, 
and there are such clever masters that it is dreadful ; it is 
said that they even imitate thunder and lightning. Any- 
way, the lads understand well, and have begun to read and 
write." Another very general opinion was that: ^They 
teach the boys everything (like gentlemen'^s sons) much of 
it is no use, but still, as they quickly learn to read, it is 
worth sending the children there."" 

Naturally Tolstoy, himself in those days an ardent 
gymnast, had parallel and horizontal bars put up, and 
gave the children physical training. To the effects of 
this on the stomach, the village mothers did not fail to 
attribute any digestive troubles that befell their children 
from time to time ; especially when the long Lenten fast 
was succeeded by a return to more appetising food, or 
when, after such luxuries had long been lacking, iresh 
vegetables again came into use in summer. 

In his account of the Ydsno-Poly^a school, Tolstoy 
tells us there were about forty pupils enrolled, but more 
than thirty were rarely present at a time ; among them 
were four or five girls, and sometimes three or four male 
adults who came either for a month or for a whole winter. 
Most of the boys were from seven to ten years old. 
(Tolstoy says that children learn to read most rapidly, 
easily and well, between the ages of six and eight.) 

There were four teachers, and generally from five to 
seven lessons a day. The teachers kept diaries of their 
work, and discussed matters together on Sundays, when 
they drew up plans for the coming week. These plans 
were, however, not strictly adhered to, but were constantly 
modified to meet the demands of the pupils. 

Tolstoy ''s sister told me of another Sunday occupation at 
Yisnaya Polydna in those days. Tolstoy used to invite all 


the boys from the neighbouring schools within reach, and 
used to play games with them ; the favourite game being 
Barre^ which I assume to be a form of ^ Storm the Castle/ 

Tolstoy came to the conclusion that teachers involuntarily 
strive to find a method of teaching convenient for them- 
selves, and that the more convenient a method is for the 
teacher, the less convenient it is for the pupil ; and only 
that method is good which satisfies the pupils. 

His theory of freedom as the basis of success in instruc- 
tion, was put to a rude test by the fact that for a consider- 
able time his pupils made little or no headway in learning 
to read. He says : 

The simple thought that the time had not yet come for good 
reading and that there was at present no need of it, but that 
the pupils would themselves find the best method when the 
need arose, only recently entered my head. 

Afler telling how the boys first met the difficulty of 
mastering the mechanical process of reading, Tolstoy goes 
on to tell how in the up|>cr class progress was suddenly 
made owing to what seemed an accident. 

In the class of advanced reading some one book is used, each 
boy reading in turn, and then all telling its contents together. 
They had been joined that autumn by an extremely talented 
lad, T., who had studied for two years with a sacristan, and was 
therefore ahead of them all in reading. He reads as we do, 
and so the pupils only understand anything of the advanced 
reading (and then not very much of it) when he reads ; and yet 
each of them wishes to read. But as soon as a bad reader 
begins, the others express dissatisfaction, especially when the 
story is interesting. They laugh, and get cross, and the bad 
reader feels ashamed, and endless disputes arise. Last month 
one of the boys announced that at any cost he would manage, 
within a week, to read as well as T. ; others made the same 
announcement, and suddenly mechanical reading became their 
favourite occupation. For an hour or an hour-and-a-half at a 


time, they would sit without tearing themselves away from the 
books^ which they did not understand ; and they began taking 
books home with them ; and really, within three weeks, they 
made such progress as could not have been expected. 

In their ease the reverse had happened of what usually 
occurs with those who learn the rudiments. Generally a man 
learns to read, and finds nothing he cares to read or understand. 
In this case the pupils were convinced that there is something 
worth reading and understanding, but felt that they lacked 
the capacity; and so they set to work to become proficient 

A difficulty of enormous importance was the absence of 
books really suitable for simple folk to read. 

The insoluble problem was that for the education of the 
people an ability and a desire to read good books is essential. 
Good books are, however, written in a literary language the 
people don't understand. In order to learn to understand it, 
one would have to read a great deal ; and people won't read 
willingly unless they understand what they read. 

Connected with this difficulty of finding books suited to 
the understanding of peasants and of peasant children, was 
the parallel difficulty of finding literary subjects that inter- 
ested them. This was first met by reading the Old 
Testament stories to them : 

A knowledge of Sacred History was demanded both by the 
pupils themselves and by their parents. Of all the oral sub- 
jects I tried during three years, nothing so suited the under- 
standing and mental condition of the boys as the Old Testament. 
The same was the case in all the schools that came under my 
observation. I tried the New Testament, I tried Russian History 
and Geography, I tried explanations of natural phenomena (so 
much advocated to-day), but it was all listened to unwillingly 
and quickly forgotten. But the Old Testament was remem- 
bered and narrated eagerly both in class and at home, and so 
well remembered that after two months the children wrote 
Scripture tales from memory with very slight omissions. 


It seems to me that the book of the childhood of the nee 
will alwa3r8 be the best book for the childhood of each man. 
It seems to me impossible to replace that book. To alter or 
to abbreviate the Bible^ as is done in Sonntag's and other 
school primers, appears to me bad. All — every word — in it is 
right, both as revelation and as art Read about the creation 
of the world in the Bible^ and then read it in an abbreviated 
Sacred History, and the alteration of the Bible into the Sacred 
History will appear to you quite unintelligible. The latter 
can only be learnt by heart; while the Bible presents the 
child with a vivid and majestic picture he will never forget. 
The omissions made in the Sacred History are quite unintel- 
ligible, and only impair the character and beauty of the 
Scriptures. Why, for instance, is the statement omitted in all 
the Sacred Histories, that when there was nothing, the Spirit of 
God moved upon the face of the waters, and that after having 
created, God looked at His creation and saw that it was good, 
and that then it was the morning and evening of such and 
such a day? Why do they omit that God breathed into 
Adam's nostrils the breath of life, and that having taken one of 
his ribs He with the flesh closed up the place thereof, and 
so forth ? One must read the Bible to unperverted children, 
to understand how necessary and true it all is. Perhaps one 
ought not to give the Bible to perverted young ladies; but 
when reading it to peasant children I did not alter or omit a 
single word. None of them giggled behind another's back ; 
but all listened eagerly and with natural reverence. The story 
of Lot and his daughters, and the story of Judah's son, evoked 
horror but not laughter. . . . 

How intelligible and clear it all is, especially for a child, and 
yet how stern and serious ! I cannot imagine what instruction 
would be possible, without that book. Yet when one has 
learnt these stories only in childhood, and has afterwards partly 
forgotten them, one thinks : What good do they do us } Would 
it not be all the same if one did not know them at all ? So it 
seems till, on beginning to teach, you test on other children 
the elements that helped to develop you. It seems as if one 
could teach children to write and read and calculate, and 
could give them an idea of history, geography, and natural 


phenomena^ without the Bible, and before the Bible; jet 
nowhere is this done : everywhere the child first of all gets 
to know the Bible, its stories^ or extracts from it. The first 
relations of the learner to the teacher are founded on that 
book. Such a general fact is not an accident My very free 
relations with niy pupils at the commencement of the YAsno- 
Polyilna school helped me to find the explanation of this 

A child or a man on entering school (I make no distinction 
between a ten-^ thirty-, or seventy-year-old man) brings with 
him the special view of things he has deduced from life and to 
which he is attached. In oider that a man of any age should 
begin to learn, it is necessary that he should love learning. 
That he should love learning, he must recognise the falseness 
and insufiiciency of his own view of things, and must scent afar 
off that new view of life which learning is to reveal to him. 
No man or boy would have the strength to learn, if the result 
of learning presented itself to him merely as a capacity to 
write, to read, and to reckon. No master could teach if he did 
not command an outlook on life higher than his pupils possess. 
That a pupil may surrender himself whole-heartedly to his 
teacher, one comer must be lifted of the veil which hides from 
him all the delight of that world of thought, knowledge, and 
poetry to which learning will admit him. Only by being 
constantly under the spell of that bright light shining ahead 
of him, will the pupil be able to use his powers in the way we 
require of him. 

What means have we of lifting this comer of the veil .> . . . 
As I have said, I thought as many think, that being myself in 
the world to which I had to inbx>duce my pupils, it would be 
easy for me to do this ; and I taught the rudiments, explained 
natural phenomena, and told them, as the primers do, that the 
fruits of leaming are sweet ; but the scholars did not believe 
me, and kept aloof. Then I tried reading the Bible to 
them, and quite took possession of them. The comer of the 
veil was lifted, and they yielded themselves to me completely. 
They fell in love with the book, and with leaming, and with 
me. It only remained for me to guide them on. . . . 

To reveal to the pupil a new world, and to make him, with- 


out possessing knowledge, love knowledge, there is no book but 
the Bible. I speak even for those who do not regard the Bible 
as a revelation. There are no other works — at least I know 
none — which in so compressed and poetic a form contain aU 
those sides of human thought which the Bible unites in itself. 
All the questions raised by natural phenomena are there dealt 
with. Of all the primitive relations of men with one another : 
the family, the State, and religion, we first become conscious 
through that book. The generalisations of thought and wisdom, 
with the charm given by their childlike simplicity of form, 
seize the pupil's mind for the first time. Not only does the 
lyricism of David's psalms act on the minds of the elder pupils ; 
but more than that, from this book every one becomes con- 
scious for the first time of the whole beauty of the epos in its 
incomparable simplicity and strength. Who has not wept over 
the story of Joseph and his meeting with his brethren ? Who 
has not, with bated breath, told the story of the bound and 
shorn Samson, revenging himself on his enemies and perishing 
under the ruins of the palace he destroys, or received a hun- 
dred other impressions on which we were reared as on our 
mothers' milk ? 

Let those who deny the educative value of the Bible and say 
it is out of date, invent a book and stories explaining the 
phenomena of Nature, either from general history or from the 
imagination, which will be accepted as the Bible stories are ; 
and then we will admit that the Bible is obsolete. . . . 

Drawn though it may be from a one-sided experience, I 
repeat my conviction. The development of a child or a man 
in our society without the Bible, is as inconceivable as that of 
an ancient Greek would have been without Homer. The Bible 
is the only book to begin with, for a child's reading. The 
Bible, both in its form and in its contents, should serve as 
a model for all children's primers and all reading books. A 
translation of the Bible into the language of the common folk, 
would be the best book for the people. 

When pupils came from other schools where they had 
had to learn Scripture by heart, or had been inoculated 
with the abbreviated school-primer versions, Tolstoy found 


that the Bible had nothing like as strong an effect as 
it had on boys who came fresh to it. 

Such pupils do not experience what is felt by fresh pupils, 
who listen to the Bible with beating heart, seizing every word, 
thinking that now, now at last, all the wisdom of the world is 
about to be revealed to them. 

In reading the above passages, it should be bonie in 
mind that in Russian usage ^The Bible'' means the Old 
Testament only. 

Besides the Bible, the only books the people understand 
and like, says Tolstoy, are those written not for the people 
but by the people; such as folk-tales and collections of 
songs, legends, proverbs, verses, and riddles. There was 
much in his experience which fits in with what Miss Neal, 
the Esperance Club and Mr. Cecil Sharp have lately been 
demonstrating by their revival of English Folk Songs and 
Folk Dances : namely, that there is an excellent literature 
and art which children and common folk appreciate and 
assimilate as eagerly and excellently as any one, and which 
it is the height of folly for cultured people to despise ; 
and his keen perception of the gap that separates the art 
and literature accessible to the people from the art that 
by its artificiality is beyond their reach, led him subse- 
quently to undertake, first a series of school primers, and 
then the re-telling of a number of folk-tales and legends, 
which have reached more readers, and perhaps benefited 
the world more, than anything else he has written. 

With penmanship it happened at Yasno-Polydna school, 
as with reading : 

The pupils wrote very badly, and a new master introduced 
writing from copies (another exercise very sedate and easy for 
the master). The pupils became dull, and we were obliged to 
abandon calligraphy, and did not know how to devise any way 
of improving their handwriting. The eldest class discovered 
the way for itself. Having finished writing the Bible stories. 


the elder pupils began to ask for their exercise-books to take 
home [probably to read to their parents]. These were dirty, 
crumpled, and badly written. The precise mathematician P. 
asked for some paper, and set to work to rewrite his stories. 
This idea pleased the others. * Give me, too, some paper ! ' — 
' Give me an exercise-book ! ' and a fashion for calligraphy set 
in, which still prevails in the upper class. They took an 
exercise-book, put before them a written alphabet copy from 
which they imitated each letter, boasting to one another of 
their performance, and in two weeks' time they had made 
great progress. 

Grammar turned out to be an unsatisfactory subject, 
and to have hardly any connection with correct writing 
or speaking. 

In our youngest — the third — class, they write what they 
like. Besides that, the youngest write out in the evening, 
one at a time, sentences they have composed all together. 
One writes, and the others whisper among themselves, noting 
his mistakes, and only waiting till he has finished, in order to 
denounce his misplaced « or his Mrrongly detached prefix, or some- 
times to perpetuate a blunder of their own. To write correctly 
and to correct mistakes made by others, gives them great 
pleasure. The elder boys seize every letter they can get hold 
of, exercising themselves in the correction of mistakes, and 
trying with all their might to write correctly ; but they cannot 
bear grammar or the analysis of sentences, and in spite of a 
bias we had for analysis, they only tolerate it to a very limited 
extent, falling asleep or evading the classes. 

History on the whole went badly, except such bits of 
Russian history as, when told poetically, aroused patriotic 
feelings. On one memorable occasion the whole class went 
wild with excitement and eager interest. That was when 
Tolstoy, with a poet's licence, told of the defeat of 
Napoleon'^s invasion of Russia in 181S. 

Except in this legendary way, the teaching of history to 


children is, in Tolstoy's opinion, useless. The historic 
sense develops later than the artistic sense : 

In my experience and practice the first germ of interest in 
history arises out of contemporary events, sometimes as a result 
of participation in them, through political interest, political 
opinions, debates, and the reading of newspapers. Conse- 
quently the idea of beginning the teaching of history from 
present times should suggest itself to every intelligent teacher. 

Of geography as a subject for the education of children, 
Tolstoy has an even lower opinion : 

In Von Vizin's comedy The Minor, when Mitrofdnoushka was 
being persuaded to learn geography, his mother said: 'Why 
teach him all the countries? The coachman will drive him 
where he may have to go to.' Nothing more to the point has 
ever been said against geography, and all the learned men in 
the world put together cannot rebut such an irrefragable 
argument. I am speaking quite seriously. What need was 
there for me to know where the river and town of Barcelona 
are situated, when for thirty-three years I have not once had 
occasion to use the knowledge.'^ Not even the most picturesque 
description of Barcelona and its inhabitants could, I imagine, 
conduce to the development of my mental faculties. 

In fact, the sweeping conclusion at which Tolstoy 
is that : 


I not only see no use, but I see great harm, in teaching 
history or geography before the University is reached. 

And he leaves it an open question whether even the 
University should concern itself with such subjects. 

Drawing was a favourite lesson with the boys; but I 
must confine myself to a single extract on that subject : 

We drew figures from the blackboard in the following way : 
I first drew a horizontal or a vertical line, dividing it into parts 
by dots, and the pupils copied this line. Then I drew another 


or several perpendicular or sloping lines^ standing in a certain 
relation to the firsts and similarly divided up. Then we joined 
the dots of these different lines by others (straight or curved), 
and formed some symmetrical figure which, as it was gradually 
evolved, was copied by the boys. It seemed to me that this 
was a good plan : first, because the boy clearly saw the whole 
process of the formation of the figure, and secondly, because 
his perception of the co-relation of lines was developed by this 
drawing from the board, much better than by copying drawings 
or designs. . . . 

It is nearly always useless to hang up a large complete 
picture or figure, because a beginner is quite at a loss before 
it, as he would be before an object from nature. But the 
growth of the figure before his eyes has an important meaning. 
In this case the pupil sees the backbone and skeleton of the 
drawing on which the body is subsequently formed. The 
pupils were always called on to criticise the lines and their 
relation, as I drew them. I often purposely drew them wrong, 
to find out in how far their judgment of the co-relation and 
incorrectness of the lines had been developed. Then again, 
when I was drawing my figure I asked the boys where they 
thought the next line should be added ; and I even made one 
or other of them invent the shape of the figure himself 

In this way I not only aroused a more lively interest, but 
got the boys to participate freely in the formation and develop- 
ment of the figures; and this prevented the question. Why? 
which boys so naturally put when they are set to draw from 

The ease or difficulty with which it was understood, and the 
more or less interest evoked, chiefly influenced the choice of 
the method of instruction ; and I often quite abandoned what 
I had prepared for the lesson, merely because it was dull or 
foreign to the boys. 

In the singing class, Tolstoy very soon found that notes 
written on the staff were not easily grasped by the pupils, 
and after using the staff for some ten lessons, he once 
showed the boys the use of numbers instead, and from that 


day forward they always asked him to use numbers, and 
they themselves always used numbers in writing music. 
This method is much more convenient, Tolstoy considers, 
for explaining both the intervals and the changes of key. 
The pupils who were not musical soon dropped out of the 
class, and the lessons with those who were, sometimes went 
on for three or four hours at a stretch. He tried to teach 
them musical time in the usual manner, but succeeded so 
badly that he had to take that and melody separately. 
First he took the sounds without reference to time, and then 
beat the time without considering the sounds, and finally 
joined the two processes together. After several lessons 
he found that the method he had drifted into, combined the 
chief features (though not some of the minor peculiarities) 
of Chevef's method, which, as already mentioned, he had 
seen in successful operation in Paris. After a very few 
lessons, two of the boys used to write down the melodies of 
the songs they knew, and were almost able to read music 
at sight. 

From the limited experience he had in teaching music, 
Tolstoy — to quote his own words almost textual ly — became 
convinced that: (1) To write sounds by means of figures 
is the most profitable method ; (S) To teach time separately 
from sound is the most profitable method ; (3) For the 
teaching of music to be willingly and fruitfully received, 
one must from the start teach the art and not aim merely 
at dexterity in singing or playing. Spoilt young ladies 
may be taught to play Burgmiiller's exercises ; but it is 
better not to teach the children of the people at all, than 
to teach them mechanically ; (4) Nothing so harms musical 
instruction as what looks like a knowledge of music : 
namely the performance of choirs, and performances at 
examinations, speech-days, or in church ; and (5) In teaching 
music to the people, the thing to be aimed at is to impart 
our knowledge of the general laws of music, but not the 
false taste we have developed among us. 


In one of the most remarkable of his articles, Tolstoy 
tells how he discovered that Fedka and Sydmka possessed 
literary ability of the highest order. Composition lessons 
had not gone well, until one day Tolstoy proposed that the 
children should write a story of peasant life to illustrate a 
popular proverb. Most of them felt this to be beyond 
their powers, and went on with their other occupations. 
One of them, however, bade Tolstoy write it himself in 
competition with them, and he set to work to do so, till 
Fedka, climbing on the back of his chair, interrupted him 
by reading over his shoulder. Tolstoy then began reading 
out what he had composed, and to explain how he thought 
of continuing the story. Several of the boys became in- 
terested, not approving of Tolstoy'^s work, but criticising 
and amending it, offering suggestions and supplying 
details. Sydmka and Fedka particularly distinguished 
themselves, and showed extraordinary imagination, and 
such judgment, sense of proportion, restraint, and power 
of clothing their thoughts in words, that Tolstoy was 
carried away by the interest of the work and wrote as 
hard as he could to their dictation, having constantly to 
ask them to wait and not forget the details they had 
suggested. Fedka — of whom Tolstoy says that * The chief 
quality in every art, the sense of proportion, was in him 
extraordinarily developed : he writhed at every superfluous 
detail suggested by any of the other boys,"* — gradually took 
control of the work, and ruled so despotically and with 
such evident right, that the others dropped off and went 
home, except Sydmka, who along his own more matter- 
of-fact line continued to co-operate. 

We worked from seven in the evening till eleven. They 
felt neither hunger nor weariness and were even angry with 
me when I stopped writing; and they set to work to do it 
themselves turn and turn about^ but did not get on well and 
soon gave it up. . . . 

I left the lesson because I was too excited. 


' What it the matter with you ? Why are you so pale : are 
you ill ? ' asked my colleague. Indeed^ only two or three times 
in my life have I experienced such strong emotion as during 
that evening. . . . 

Next day Tolstoy could hardly believe the experience of 
the night before. It seemed incredible that a peasant boy, 
hardly able to read, should suddenly display such marvellous 
command of artistic creative power. 

It teemed to me strange and offensive that I, the author 
of Childhood, who had achieved a certain success and was 
recognised by the educated Russian public as possessing artistic 
talent, should in artistic matters not merely be unable to 
instruct or help eleven-year-old Sy6mka and F6dka, but should 
hardly be able, except at a happy moment of excitement, to 
keep up with them and understand them. 

Next day we set to work to continue the story. When I 
asked F6dka if he had thought of a continuation, he only 
waved his hand and remarked : ' I know, I know ! . . . Who 
will do the writing?' . . . We resumed the work, and again 
the boys showed the same enthusiasm, and the same sense of 
artistic truth and proportion. 

Half-way through the lesson I had to leave them. They 
wrote two pages without me, as just in feeling and as true to 
life as the preceding ones. These two pages were rather 
poorer in detail, some of the details were not quite happily 
placed, and there were also a couple of repetitions. All this 
had evidently occurred because the actual writing was a 
difficulty for them. On the third day we had similar success. 
. . . There could no longer be any doubt or thought of its 
being a mere accident. We had obviously succeeded in find- 
ing a more natural and inspiring method than any we had 
previously tried. 

This unfinished story was accidentally destroyed. Tolstoy 
was greatly annoyed, and Fddka and Sydmka, though they 
did not understand his vexation, offered to stay the night 
at his house and reproduce it. After eight o'clock, when 



school was over, they came, and (to ToIstoy^s great pleasure) 
locked themselves into his study, where at first they were 
heard laughing but then became very quiet. On listening 
at the door Tolstoy heard their subdued voices discussing 
the story, and heard also the scratching of a pen. At 
midnight he knocked and was admitted. Syomka was 
standing at the large table, writing busily; his lines 
running crookedly across the paper and his pen constantly 
seeking the inkstand. Fddka told Tolstoy to * wait a bit,"* 
and insisted on Syomka^s adding something more, to his 
dictation. At last Tolstoy took the exercise-book ; and 
the lads, after enjoying a merry supper of potatoes and 
kvdsy divested themselves of their sheepskin coats and lay 
down to sleep under the writing table ; their ^ charming, 
healthy, childish, peasant laughter ^ still ringing through 
the room. 

The story just mentioned, and other stories written by 
the children, were published in the magazine ; and Tolstoy 
declares them to be, in their way, superior to anything else 
in Russian literature. It was largely on the model. of 
these peasant children's stories that, years later, he wrote 
his own famous stories for the people. 

The rules for encouraging composition which he deduces 
from his experience are these : 

(1) To offer as large and varied a choice of themes as pos- 
sible ; not inventing them specially for the children, but 
offering such as most interest the teacher and seem to him 
most important. 

(2) To give children stories written by children to read, 
and to offer only children's compositions as models ; because 
these are juster, finer and more moral than those written by 

(3) (Specially important.) Never, when looking through the 
compositions, make any remarks to the children about the 
neatness of the exercise-books, the handwriting, or the spell- 
ing; nor, above all, about the construction of the sentences, 
or about logic. 


(4) Since the difficulty of composition lies not in size nor in 
subject, nor in correctness of language^ but in the mechanism 
of the work, which consists : (a) in choosing one out of the large 
number of thoughts and images that offer themselves ; (6) in 
choosing words wherewith to clothe it; (c) in remembering it 
and finding a fitting place for it ; (d) in remembering what has 
already been written, so as not to repeat anything or omit any- 
thing, and in finding a way of joining up what has preceded 
to what succeeds ; (e) and finally in so managing that while 
thinking and writing at one and the same time, the one opera- 
tion shall not hamper the other, — I, having these things in 
view, proceeded as follows. 

At first I took upon myself some of these sides of the work, 
transferring them gradually to the pupils. At first, out of the 
thoughts and images suggested, I chose for them those which 
seemed to me best, and I kept these in mind and indicated 
suitable places to insert them, and I looked over what had 
been written to avoid repetitions, and I did the writing my- 
self, letting them merely clothe the thoughts and images in 
words. Afterwards I let them select, and then let them look 
over what had been written, and finally they took on themselves 
the actual writing. . . . 

One of the profoundest convictions impressed on Tolstoy^s 
mind by his educational experiments was that the peasants 
and their children have a large share of artistic capacity, 
and that art is immensely important because of its human- 
ising effect on them, and because it arouses and trains 
their faculties. Unfortunately the works : literary, poetic, 
dramatic, pictorial and plastic, now produced, are being 
produced expressly for people possessed of leisure, wealth, 
and a special, artificial training, and are therefore useless 
to the people. This deflection of art from the service of 
the masses of whom there are millions, to the delectation 
of the classes of whom there are but thousands, appears to 
him to be a very great evil. 

He says with reference to two realms of art which he had 
loved passionately, and with which he was specially familiar : 


music and poetry, that he noticed that the demands of the 
masses were more Intimate than the demands of the dasaes. 

Terrible to say, I came to the conviction that all that we 
have done in those two departments has been done along 
a false and exceptional path, which lacks importance, has no 
future, and is insignificant in comparison with the demands 
upon, and even with the samples of, those same arts whidi we 
find put forward by the people. I became convinced that sach 
Ijrrical compositions as, for example, Poi&shkin's ' I remeai^>er 
the marvellous moment,' and such musical productions as Beet- 
hoven's Last Symphony, are not so absolutely and universally 
good as the song of Willy the Steward ' or the melody of' Float- 
ing down the river. Mother V61ga ' ; and that Poiishkin and 
Beethoven please us, not because they are absolutely beauti- 
ful, but because we are as spoiled as they, and because they 
flatter our abnormal irritability and weakness. How common 
it is to hear the empty and stale paradox, that to understand 
the beautiful, a preparation is necessary ! Who said so ? Why ? 
What proves it .^ It is only a shift, a loophole, to escape from 
the hopeless position to which the false direction of our art, 
produced for one class alone, has led us. Why are the beauty of 
the sun and of the human face, and the beauty of the sounds of 
a folk-song, and of deeds of love and self-sacrifice, accessible to 
every one, and why do they demand no preparation ? 

For years I vainly strove to make my pupils feel the poetic 
beauties of Poiishkin and of our whole literature, and a similar 
attempt is being made by innumerable teachers not in Russia 
alone ; and if these teachers notice the results of their efforts, 
and will be frank about the matter, they will admit that the chief 
result of this attempt to develop poetic feeling, is to kill it ; and 
that it is just those pupils whose natures are most poetic who 
show most aversion to such commentaries. . . . 

I will try to sum up all that I have said above. In reply to 
the question: Do people need the beaux arts} pedagogues 
usually grow timid and confused (only Plato decided the matter 
boldly in the negative). They say : 'Art is needed, but with 
certain limitations ; and to make it possible for all to become 
artists would be bad for the social structure. Certain arts and 


certain degrees of art can only exist in a certain class of society. 
The arts must have their special servants, entirely devoted to 
them.' They say : ' It should be possible for those who are 
greatly gifted to escape from among the people and devote 
themselves completely to the service of art' That is the 
greatest concession pedagogy makes to the right of each 
individual to become what he likes. 

Bat I consider that to be all wrong. I think that a need to 
enjoy art and to serve art^ is inherent in every human being, 
to whatever race or class he may belong ; and that this need 
has its right and should be satisfied. Taking that position 
at an axiom, I say that if the enjoyment and production of 
art by every one, presents inconveniences and inconsistencies, 
the reason lies in the character and direction art has taken : 
about which we must be on our guard, lest we foist anything 
fiidse on the rising generation, and lest we prevent it from 
producing something new, both as to form and as to matter. 

Tolstoy goes so far as to doubt whether, so long as no 
suitable literature is produced for the people, it is even 
worth their while to learn to read. 

Looking closer at the results of the rudiments in the form in 
which they are supplied to the masses, I think most people will 
decide that the rudiments do more harm than good, taking into 
acccrant the prolonged compulsion, the disproportionate develop- 
ment of memory, the false conception of the completeness of 
science, the aversion to further education, the false vanity, and 
the habit of meaningless reading acquired in these schools. . . . 

' Let us print good books for the people ! ' . . . How simple 
and easy that seems — ^like all great thoughts ! There is only 
one obstacle, namely that there exist no good books for the 
people^ either here or in Europe. To print such books, they 
must first be produced ; and none of our philanthropists think 
of undertaking thai work ! 

Before closing this rapid summary of Tolstoy^s educa- 
tional writings, let me quote a few more sentences which 
sum up his essential position : 


In my articles on Education I have given my theoretic reasons 
for considering that only freedom on the part of the pupils to 
select what they will learn and how they will learn it, can 
furnish a sound basis for any instruction. In practice I con- 
stantly applied those rules to the schools under my guidance 
. . . and the results were always very good both for the teachers 
and the pupils, as well as for the evolution of new methods ; 
and this I assert boldly, for hundreds of visitors came to the 
Y^no-PolyAna school and know how it worked. 

For the masters, the result of such relations with the pupils 
was that they did not consider any methods they happened to 
know, to be the best, but they tried to discover new methods 
and made acquaintance with other teachers whose ways they 
could learn. They tested fresh methods, and above all, they 
themselves were always learning. A master never allowed 
himself, in cases of failure, to think that it was the pupils' fault: 
their laziness, naughtiness, stupidity, deafness or stuttering; 
but he was convinced that the fault was his own, and for every 
defect on the side of the pupil or pupils, he tried to discover a 

For the pupils the results were that they learnt eagerly, 
always begged to have additional lessons on winter evenings, 
and were quite free in class — which, in my conviction and 
experience, is the chief condition of successful teaching. Be- 
tween the teachers and the pupils friendly and natural relations 
always arose, without which it is not possible fo» a teacher to 
know his pupils fully. . . . 

With reference to the methods of instruction, the results 
were that no method was adopted or rejected because it pleased 
or did not please the teacher, but only because the pupil, with- 
out compulsion, accepted or did not accept it. But besides the 
good results which unfailingly followed the adoption of my 
method both by myself and by all — more than twenty — other 
teachers (I say ^ unfailingly ' because we never had a single 
pupil who did not master the rudiments) — besides these results, 
the adoption of the principles of which i have spoken produced 
this effect, that during fifteen years all the different modifica- 
tions to which my method has been subjected, have not only 
not removed it from the demands of the people, but have 


brought it closer and closer to them. ... In my school . . . 
every teacher^ while bringing his pupils forward, himself feels 
the need of learning ; and this was constantly the case with all 
the teachers I had. 

Moreover, the very methods of instruction themselves — since 
they are not fixed once for all but aim at finding the easiest 
and simplest paths — change and improve according to what 
the teacher learns from the pupils' relation to his teaching. 

The children had not to pay anything for attending the 
school, and the relations between them and Tolstoy are 
illustrated by the account a visitor has given of seeing 
Tolstoy rush through a gate followed by a crowd of merry 
youngsters who were snow-balling him. Tolstoy was 
intent on making his escape, but on seeing the visitor he 
changed his mind, acknowledged his defeat, and sur- 
rendered to his triumphant pursuers. 

Tolstoy does not stand before the world to-day primarily 
as a school-master, and even were I competent to deal 
with the subject, it would exceed the limits of this 
biography to attempt a detailed criticism of his precepts 
and practice ; but he evidently possessed, as he claims in 
one of his articles, ^ a certain pedagogic tact '* ; and he is 
clearly right in his belief that the rigid discipline of schools, 
the lack of freedom and initiative, the continual demand 
for silence and obedience, and the refusal to allow pupils to 
criticise the lessons they receive, have a constantly stupefying 

All that he allowed at Ydsnaya Polydna was denied to 
us when I was at Chrises Hospital, in 1868-1874 ; and 
I look back on those six years of mental stultification as 
the most wretched of my life. At the preparatory school 
in Hertford, so stupefied were the little boys by terror 
and discipline, that when the head-master (traditionally 
an incarnation of all the virtues) -became grossly harsh 
and unfair, they could not see what was happening until 
his insanity was so pronounced that the doctors had to 


take him in hand : an event that occurred soon after I had 
left for the upper school in London. 

There, one of the masters (who evidently did not believe 
that ^history is experience teaching by example^) in in- 
tervals between whacking the boys on their backs or hands 
with a long cane, used, I remember, emphatically to 
announce that ^ dates and names are the most important parts 
of history." A Latin master, a barrister, who was usually 
busy at some sort of law work when he should have been 
teaching us, used to set us to learn by rote rules and illus- 
trations which we did not in the least understand. On one 
occasion the example given in the grammar was : 

Opes irriiamerUa malorum effbdiuntur. 

Riches the incentives of crime are dug out of the earth. 

The top boy had learnt the rule and illustration by heart 
(which I never could do); but, departing from his usual 
routine, the master unexpectedly asked which Latin word 
corresponded to which English. Each of the first twenty- 
four boys in the class in turn got caned and sent to the 
bottom ; so that by the time I, who had been last, had 
come to the top, and it was my turn to reply, only one 
possible combination remained untried, and I was able 
to announce that effbdvuntur meant ^ are dug out of the 
earth.' Unluckily there was another rule that day, and 
over this I, in turn, came to grief, and was caned and sent 
to the bottom. 

In the drawing class I remember doing the outline of 
a cube to the master'^s satisfaction, and being promoted 
to the shading class. I had no idea how to shade, and 
the attempt I made was certainly a very bad one ; but in- 
stead of receiving advice or assistance, my ears were boxed 
so violently that I should be tempted to attribute to that 
assault the slight deafness from which I have since suffered, 
were it not that such treatment was so common at Christ's 
Hospital, that none of the victims whose hearing may have 


been impaired, could be sure to which of the masters they 
owed that part of their preparation for the battle of life. 

I feel sure the stultifying effects of such cruel and sense- 
less treatment would have been even more serious, had not 
the school authorities, by some strange oversight, allowed 
one really readable and interesting periodical to find a place 
among the Sunday magazines and other sterilised literature 
obtainable in the School Library. This one publication, 
which I read ardently during my school years, was Chambers's 
Journal. It contained novels by James Payn, and other 
matter suited to my powers of mental digestion. From 
smuggled copies of Captain Marryat^s novels I also got 
a good deal of culture : far more, I am sure, than from any 
of the lessons we endured. 


Tolstoy's Educational articles, and 
N. V. Ouspensky, Iz Proihk^, 



l*he Behrs visit Yasnaya. Proposal by thought-reading. 
The Diary. Marriage. Ministers on magazine. The school 
closed and the magazine stopped. Family happiness. 
Health. Fet's visit. Sergius born. Children. The Costack* 
and Poiikoushka. Bees. Plays. Coi^euion, Saving the 
hay. DecembrisU, Samara. Preparations for War and 
Peace, Collected edition. Translations. Dislocates arm. 
Tatiana born. Fears of famine. Sergius (brother) and 
Tanya Behrs. Nikolsky. Visits Borodino. Tolstoy at 
home and with the children. Relations with servantB. 
Masquerade. Moscow. Drawing school. Sculpture. Ilya 
born. Pleads at court-martial. Dr. Zaharin. Smoke, 
Fet's Literary Evening. War and Peace, Schopenhauer. 
Penza. Death of V. P. Botkin. The Countess and the chil- 
dren's education. English nurse. Tolstoy's habits. Visitors. 
Fet. Tolstoy's ardour. Property. Untidiness. Respect for 
sleep. Newspapers. Characteristics. Studies the drama. 

To one who admires Tolsto^^'s educational work, it is 
somewhat disconcerting to see how scornfully he spoke of it 
sixteen years later in his Confession, But that is always 
his way : the old is useless and worthless and bad ; only the 
new, the unachieved, the fresh ideal, is admirable. For it, 
he decries all that the past has produced — including him- 
self and his former work. He makes his points broadly 
and powerfully, but to understand, we must discriminate, 
and allow for an artistic temperament tempting him to 
exaggerate. Let him however speak for himself, that the 
reader may judge: 

On returning from abroad I settled in the country^ and hap- 
pened to occupy myself with peasant schools. This work was 


particularly to my taste^ because in it I had not to face the falsity 
which had become obvious to me and stared me in the face when 
I tried to teach people by literary means. Here, also, I acted 
in the name of Progress, but I already regarded Progress itself 
critically. I said to myself: 'In some of its developments 
Progress has proceeded wrongly ; and with primitive peasant 
children one must deal in a spirit of perfect freedom, letting 
them choose what path of Progress they please.' In reality I 
was ever revolving round one and the same insoluble problem, 
which was : How to teach without knowing what ? In the 
higher spheres of literary activity I had realised that one could 
not teach without knowing what; for I saw that people all 
taught differently, and by quarrelling among themselves suc- 
ceeded only in hiding their ignorance from one another. But 
here, with peasant children, I thought to evade this difficulty 
by letting them learn what they liked. It amuses me now, when 
I remember how I shuffled in trying to fulfil my desire to teach, 
while in the depth of my soul I knew very well that I could not 
teach anything needful, for I did not know what was needful. 

After spending a year at school work, I went abroad a second 
time, to discover how to teach others while myself knowing 

And it seemed to me that I had learnt this abroad, and in 
the year of the peasants' Emancipation I returned to Russia 
armed with all this wisdom ; and having become an Arbiter, I 
began to teach both the uneducated peasants in schools, and 
the educated classes through a magazine I published. Things 
appeared to be going well, but I felt I was not quite sound 
mentally, and that matters could not long continue in that way. 
And I should perhaps then have come to the state of despair 
at which I arrived fifteen years later, had there not been one 
side of life still unexplored by me, and which promised me 
happiness : that was marriage. 

For a year I busied myself with Arbitration work, the schools, 
and the magazine; and I became so worn-out — as a result 
especially of my mental confusion — and so hard was my struggle 
as Arbiter, so obscure the results of my activity in the schools, 
so repulsive my shuffling in the magazine (which always 
amounted to one and the same thing : a desire to teach every- 


body, and to hide the ftust that 1 did not know what to teach) 
that I fell ill, mentally rather than phyaieally, and threw op 
everything, and went away to the Bashkirs in the steppes, to 
breathe fresh air, drink kouwift, and live an animal life. 

Tired of and dissatisfied with his work, and thinking he 
detected in himself signs of the malady that had carried off 

I8fi2 ^^^ ^^ ^^ brothers, he set off in May 1862 (accom- 
panied by his servant Alexis and two of his pupils) 
to undergo a koum^s (soured and fermented mares^ milk) 
cure in the Samdra steppes east of the Vdlga, 

He went first to Moscow, and it must have been on this 
visit that be lost Bs. 1000 at Chinese billiards (a game 
something like bagatelle, played on a board with wire im- 
pediments) to S[atk6f, the well-known publicist, editor of 
the Moscow Gaxette and of the monthly Russian Messenger, 
This was, I believe, the last occasion on which Tolstoy played 
any game for stakes he found it difficult to pay. Tlie 
occurrence led to the premature publication oif his novel 
7%^ Cossacks, which he had had in hand for several years, 
but to which he still intended to add a second part. Not 
having Rs. 1000 (then about i?150) available, he let Katkdf 
have the story instead of the money. This * Tale of the Year 
1852,^ as the sub-title runs, is based on ToIstoy^s Caucasian 
experiences; and, as already mentioned in Chapter III, 
Maridna, the beautiful Cossack maiden, was a real woman for 
whose love he had yearned. The circumstances which led 
to its premature publication made the work repugnant 
to him, and he never completed it. 

Among those to whom he mentioned the occurrence were 
the three Miss Behrs, who were so interested in him that 
they wept at the news. At their home he was always a 
welcome and intimate guest, and as time went on he saw 
more and more of that family. 

From Moscow he proceeded to Tver by rail, and thence 
by steamer down the Volga to Samdra. On 20th May he 
notes in his Diary : 


On the steamer I seem to be reawakening to life and to a 
knowledge of it The thought of the absurdity of the belief 
in ^ progress ' haunts me. With wise and simple, old and young, 
I talk of that one thing. 

At Kaz^n he stopped to visit his relation V. I. Ushkof ; 
and from SamiLra he wrote to Aunt Tatidna : 

27 May 1862. 

To-day I shall start to drive ninety miles from Samtei to 
Karalyk. . . . 

I have had a beautiful journey ; the country pleases me very 
much ; my health is better, ue, I cough less. Alexis and the 
boys are alive and well, as you may teU their relations. Please 
write me about Serg6y, or let him do so. Greet all my dear 
comrades [probably the masters in the schools] for me, and 
request them to write me of what goes on, and of how they are 
getting on. . . . 

In another letter, dated 28th June 1862, he wrote : 

It is now a month since I had any news of you or from home ; 
please write me about everybody : first, our family ; seeondly, 
the (University) students [who acted as masters in the schookj 
etc. Alexis and I have grown fatter, he especially, but we still 
cough a little, and again he especially. We are living in a 
Tartar tent ; the weather is beautiful. I have found my friend 
StoI]^pin — now AtamAn in OudUsk — and have driven over to 
see him ; and have brought back from there a secretary ; but I 
dictate and write little. Idleness overcomes one when drink- 
ing koum^s. In two weeks' time I intend to leave here, and I 
expect to be home by St. Elijah's day [20 July, old style]. I am 
tormented in this out-of-the-way place by not knowing what is 
going on, and also by the thought thait I am horribly behind- 
hand with the publication of the magazine. I kiss your 
hand. . . . 

About the time he wrote this letter a most unexpected 
event was occurring at Y^naya, where Tolstoy^s sister Mary 
and her three children were stajring with Aunt Tatidna. 
Owing either to the denunciations of landowners angry with 


him for what he had done as Arbiter, or to the outspoken- 
ness of his magazine, the police authorities decided to search 
his estate ; and one morning — to the immense astonishment 
of the neighbouring peasants — police, watchmen, officials, 
and gendarmes, under the command of a Colonel, appeared 
upon the scene ! In the school-house a photographic ap- 
paratus was discovered : a thing sufficiently rare in a Russian 
village in those days to evoke the suspicious inquiries of 
the gendarme officer, to whom one of the student-teachers 
chaffingly volunteered the information that it was kept to 
photograph Herzen (the celebrated exile, then living in 

The floors of the stables were broken up with crowbars 
to see if anything was hidden there. The pond was dragged, 
but nothing more incriminating than crayfish and carp was 
found. All the cupboards, drawers, boxes and desks in 
the house were opened and searched, and the ladies were 
frightened almost to death. A police-officer from Toula 
would not even allow Tolstoy's sister to leave the library 
till he had finished reading aloud in her presence and 
in that of two gendarmes, Tolstoy ''s Diary and letters, 
which contained the most intimate secrets of his life and 
which he had kept private since he was sixteen years old. 

Finding nothing incriminating at Yasnaya, the repre- 
sentatives of law and order next betook themselves to the 
other schools working in conjunction with Tolstoy, and 
there also they turned tables and cupboards upside down, 
seized exercise-books and primers, arrested the teachers, 
and spread the wildest suspicions abroad among the peasants, 
to whom school education was still a novelty held somewhat 
in suspicion. 

On rei'civing news of this event Tolstoy at once wrote 
to his aunt, the Countess A. A. Tolstoy, asking her to speak 
to those who knew him well and had influence, and on 
whose aid he could rely. Said he : 

I cannot and will not let this affair pass. All the activity in 


which I found solace and happiness^ has been spoilt. Aunty is 
so ill from fright that she will probably not recover. The 
peasants no longer regard me as an honest man — an opinion I 
had earned in the course of years — but as a criminal, an 
incendiary, or a coiner^ whose cunning alone has enabled him to 
escape punishment. 

* Eh, man, you 've been found out ! Don't talk to us any 
more about honesty and justice — you 've hardly escaped hand- 
cuffs yourself ! ' 

From the landed proprietors I need not say what a cry of 
rapture went up. Please write to me as soon as possible, after 
consulting Per6vsky [Count V. A. P.] and Alex6y Tolstoy 
[Count A. T., the dramatist and poet] and any one else you 
like, as to how I am to write to the Emperor and how best 
to present my letter. It is too late to prevent the injury 
the thing has done, or to extricate myself, and there is no 
way out except by receiving satisfaction as public as the 
insult has been ; and this I have firmly resolved on. I shall 
not join Herzen ; he has his way, I have mine. Neither will 
I hide. . . . But I will loudly announce that I am selling my 
estate and mean to leave Russia, where one cannot know from 
moment to moment what awaits one. . . . 

At the end of an eight-page letter he mentions that the 
Colonel of gendarmes, on leaving, threatened to renew his 
search till he discovered *if anything is hidden'; and 
Tolstoy adds, * I have loaded pistols in my room, and am 
waiting to see how this matter will end.' 

He also remarked : ' I often say to myself. How exceed- 
ingly fortunate it was that I was not at home at the time ! 
Had I been there, I should certainly now be awaiting my 
trial for murder ! ' 

Not long after this, Alexander II visited Moscow, and 
Tolstoy met him walking in the Alexandra Gardens and 
presented a written request for reparation. The Emperor 
took the letter, and apparently Tolstoy subsequently received, 
through an aide-de-camp, some expression of regret for what 
had occurred. 


It is easy to imagine the effect such an outrage as this 
police-search would have on a man of Tolstoy^s acute self- 
esteem, and how it would intensify his hatred of Government. 

After his return from Samdra, he saw more of the Befars 
than ever. Fet, whom he introduced to them, thus records 
his impressions of the family : 

I found the doctor to he an amiable old gentleman of polite 
manners^ and his wife a handsome^ majestic brunette who 
evidently ruled the house. I refrain from describing the three 
young ladies^ of whom the youngest had an admirable contralto 
voice. They all, notvdthstanding the watchful supervision of 
their mother and their irreproachable modesty, possessed that 
attractive quality which the French designate by the words 
du chkn [lively, full of go]. The table service and the dinner 
were admirable. 

Madame Behrs was on very friendly terms with Tolstoy^s 
sister, the Countess Mary ; and before he went abroad 
Tolstoy had frequently, at the house of the latter, played 
with the children of both families. In 1862 he often visited 
the Behrs at Pokrdvskoe-Glebovo, where they lived in a 
ddtcha (country house) they occupied every summer. He 
nearly always walked the eight miles from Moscow, and 
often took long rambles with the family besides. The girls 
had been educated at home, but Sophia Andr^yevna, the 
second daughter, had passed a University examination 
entitling her to the diploma qualifying to give lessons in 
private families.* 

We may judge of Tolstoy's state of mind at this time by 
an entry in his Diary, dated S3rd August : ' I am afraid of 
myself. What if this be only a desire for love and not real 
love ? I try to notice only her weak points, but yet I love,^ 
And again, ^ I rose in good health, with a particularly clear 
head, and wrote easily, though the matter was feeble. Then 
I felt more sad than I have done for a long time. I have 
no friends at all. I am alone. I had friends when I served 
Mammon, but have none when I serve truth," 


On ^th August Ke notes that ScSnya (Miss Sophia Behrs) 
gave him a story to read, written by herself, and her de- 
scription of the hero as a man of ^unusually unattrac- 
tive appearance, and changeable convictions ^ hit him hard ; 
but he was relieved to find that it was not meant for 

On his thirty-fourth birthday, 28th August 1862 (old style) 
he jotted down in his Diary the words : * Ugly mug ! Do not 
think of marriage; your calling is of another kind."* 

About this time the Behrs paid a two weeks^ visit to 
Madame Behrs^ brother^s estate of Ivitsa, some thirty miles 
from YAsnaya. Tolstoy accompanied them on the carriage 
journey from Moscow, and en route they stopped a couple 
of days at YAsnaya to visit the Countess Mary. The day 
after their arrival a picnic party was arranged with some 
neighbours. It was haymaking time, and there was much 
haystack climbing by the picknickers. The general im- 
pression was that Tolstoy was in love with Lisa, the eldest 
Miss Behrs : this opinion being fostered by the idea, then 
common in Russia, that an elder daughter should be dis- 
posed of before a younger daughter may be courted. 

A few days later Tolstoy followed the Behrs to Ivitsa ; 
and here the scene occurred which he has utilised in Anna 
Karhiina when describing Levin's proposal to Kitty — a 
scene in which something approaching thought-reading 
takes place. 

Sitting at a card-table with Miss Sophia Behrs, Tolstoy 
wrote the initial letters of the sentence : 

* In Your family (a) false opinion exists about me and Your 
sister Lisa ; You and T^nitchka should destroy W 

Miss Sophia read the letters, understood what words they 
stood for, and nodded her head. Her task was perhaps 
facilitated by the Russian practice of writing You and Yours 
with capitals, and by the non-existence of articles in that 
language. Still the test was a severe one. 

Tolstoy then wrote the initial letters of another sentence : 

* Your youth and need (of) happiness, to-day remind me 


too strongly of my age and (the) impossibility (of) hi^pi- 

The Russian language (with its inflections instead of 
particles) somewhat diminishes the miracle ; but again the 
girl guessed the words aright. The two understood one 
another, and their fate was practically sealed. 

The Behrs returned to Pokrdvskoe-GI^bovo in September. 
Tolstoy followed them to Moscow and visited them every 
day, bringing music for the young ladies, playing the piano 
for them, and accompanjdng the youngest — whom he nick- 
named ** Madame Viardot "* after the famous singer. 

On the 17th of that month (the name^s day of Sophia) 
Tolstoy handed his future wife a letter containing a pro* 
posal of marriage, which she gladly accepted. Her &ther, 
displeased that the second daughter should be preferred to 
the eldest, at first refused his assent. But Tolstoy was 
strenuously insistent — I have even heard that he threatened 
to shoot himself — and the doctor soon yielded to the united 
persuasion of daughter and suitor. 

The bridegroom'^s sense of honour led him to hand his 
future wife the Diary, in which, mingled vrith hopes, prayers, 
self-castigations and self-denunciations, the sins and excesses 
of his bachelorhood were recorded. To the girl, who had 
looked upon him as a personification of the virtues, this 
revelation came as a great shock ; but after a sleepless night 
passed in weeping bitterly over it, she returned the Diary 
and forgave the past. To get married it was necessary first 
to confess and receive the eucharist. Tolstoy's own experi- 
ences in this matter are narrated in Chapter I of Part V of 
Anna Karhitna^ where they are attributed to Levin. 

The marriage took place within a week of the proposal, 
namely on 2Srd September 1862, in the Court church of the 
Kremlin, the bridegroom being thirty-four and the bride 
eighteen years of age. When the ceremony was over the 
couple left Moscow in a dormeuse (sleeping carriage), and 
drove to Y^naya Polydna, where Tolstoy's brother Sergey 
and Aunt Tati^na were awaiting them. 

Tolstoy in 1862, the year of his marriage. 


Fet records the letter in which Tolstoy informed him of 
his marriage : 

FiTousHKA [an endearing diminutive of Fet] Uncle, or simply 
Dear Friend AfanIsy AfanAsyevitch ! — I have been married 
two weeks and am happy^ and am a new^ quite a new man. I 
want to visit you, but cannot manage it. When shall I see you ? 
Having come to myself^ I feel that I value you very, very 
much. We have so many unforgettable things in common : 
Nik61enka^ and much besides. Do drive over and make my 
acquaintance. I kiss Mdrya PetnSvna's hand. Farewell, dear 
friend. I embrace you with all my heart. 

Before Tolstoy had been married a fortnight an event 
occurred which might easily have led to very disagreeable 
consequences. On 3rd October the Minister of the Interior 
called the attention of the Minister of Education to the 
harmful nature of the Y&tnaya Poly&na magazine. This is 
what he wrote : 

A careful perusal of the educational magazine, Ydsnaya 
Polydna, edited by Count Tolstoy, leads to the conviction that 
that magazine, preaching completely novel methods of instruc- 
tion and new bases for elementary schools, frequently propagates 
ideas which apart from their incorrectness are by their very 
tendency harmful. ... I consider it necessary to direct your 
Excellency's attention to the general tendency and spirit of 
that magazine, which often infringes the fundamental rules of 
religion and morality. In my opinion a continuation of that 
magazine in the same spirit would have to be regarded as the 
more harmful because the editor, commanding remarkable and 
one may say fascinating literary endowment, cannot be sus- 
pected either of evil intention or of insincerity in his con- 
victions. The evil lies in the falsity and, so to speak, the 
eccentricity of those convictions, which being expounded with 
peculiar eloquence, may lead inexperienced pedagogues astray 
and give a wrong bias to popular education. I have the honour 
to inform you. Sir, of this, in the expectation that you may be 
inclined to consider it desirable to direct the special attention 
of the Censor to this publication. 


Fortunately the decision of the matter did not lie with 
the Minister of the Interior, but with the Minister of 
Education, who on receiving this communication had the 
magazine in question carefully examined, and, on 24th 
October, replied that he found nothing harmful or contrary 
to religion in its tendency. It contained extreme opinions 
on educational matters, no doubt, but these, he said, should 
be criticised in educational periodicals rather than pro- 
hibited by the Censor. ' In general," added the Minister : 

I must say that Count Tolstoy's educational activity deserves 
full respect^ and the Ministry of Education is bound to assist 
and co-operate with him, though it cannot share all his views, 
some of which after full consideration he will himself probably 

Other things besides the suspicion in which he was held 
by the Minister of the Interior, tended to discourage Tolstoy, 
His magazine had few subscribers and attracted but little 
attention. The yeaFs issue was causing him a loss of some- 
thing like Rs. 3000 (say about <£450) — a larger sum than 
he could well afford to throw away. So he decided to dis- 
continue it after the twelfth number. The month after 
his marriage he also closed the school, which was too great 
a tax on his time and attention. 

It has often been said that the obstacles placed in his 
way by the Government turned him aside from educational 
work, but in speaking to me about it Tolstoy remarked 
that really the main factor was his marriage, and his pre- 
occupation with family life. 

Both he and his wife were absorbed by their personal 
happiness, though from time to time small quaiTels and 
misunderstandings arose between them. So impulsive and 
strenuous a nature as Tolstoy's was sure to have its fluctua- 
tions of feeling, but on the whole the ties binding the 
couple together grew stronger and closer as the months 
passed into years. 

The Countess's parents used to say : * We could not have 


wished for greater happiness for our daughter/ The Countess 
not only loved Tolstoy dearly as a husband, but had the 
deepest admiration for him as a writer. He on his side 
often said that he found in family life the completest hap- 
piness, and in Sophia Andreyevna not only a loving wife 
and an excellent mother for his children, but an admirable 
assistant in his literary work, in which, owing to his careless 
and unmethodical habits, an intelligent and devoted amanu- 
ensis was invaluable. The Countess acquired remarkable 
skill in deciphering his often extremely illegible handwriting, 
and was sometimes able to guess in a quite extraordinary 
way the meaning of his hasty jottings and incomplete 

One drawback to their almost complete happiness lay in 
the fact that though active and possessed of great physical 
strength, Tolstoy seldom enjoyed any long periods of un- 
interrupted good health. In his correspondence we find 
frequent references to indisposition. In early manhood, he 
seems to have distended his stomach by imprudence in 
eating, and for the rest of his life he was subject to digestive 

Town life did not attract him. He had never felt at ease 
in what is called high society; nor were his means large 
enough to enable him to support a wife and family in a 
good position in town. Still, towards the close of the year 
of his marriage, he and the Countess spent some weeks in 

They were however soon back at YAsnaya. In February 
Fet visited them there, and found them overflowing ^^^ 
with life and happiness. 

On 15th May, after the Tolstoys and Fet had by some 
chance just missed meeting at the house of a neighbouring 
proprietor, Tolstoy wrote to his friend : 

We just missed seeing you^ and how sorry I am that we did ! 
How much I want to talk over with you. Not a day passes 
without our mentioning you several times. My wife is not at 
all 'playing with dolls.' Don't you insult her. She is my 


serious helpmate, though now bearing a burden from which she 
hopes to be free early in July. What won't she do afterwards ? 
We are ufanizing ^ little by little. I have made an important 
discovery^ which I hasten to impart to you. Clerks and over- 
seers are only a hindrance to the management of an estate. 
Try the experiment of dismissing them all ; then sleep ten hours 
a day^ and be assured that everything will get along not worse, 
I have made the experiment and am quite satisfied with its 

How, oh how, are we to see one another } If you go to 
Moscow with Mary a Petrovna and do not come to visit us^ it 
will be dreadful offensive. (My wife, who was reading this 
letter, prompted that sentence.) I wanted to write much, but 
time lacks. I embrace you with all my heart ; my wife bows 
profoundly to you, and I to your wife. 

Business : When you are in Orel, buy me 20 poods [720 lbs.] 
of various kinds of twine, reins, and shaft-traces, if they cost 
less than Rs. 2.30 per pood including carriage, and send them 
me by a carter. The money shall be paid at once. 

Fet soon availed himself of the invitation, and after driv- 
ing past the low towers which mark the entrance to the 
birch alley leading to the house, he came upon Tolstoy 
eagerly directing the dragging of a lake and taking all 
possible care that the carp should not escape. The Countess, 
in a white dress, came running down the alley, with a huge 
bundle of bani-door keys hanging at her waist. After 
cordially greeting the visitor, she, notwithstanding her 
* exceedingly interesting condition," leapt over the low rail- 
ing between the alley and the pond. It will however be 
better to quote Fet's own account of his visit : 

' Sony a, tell Nesterka to fetch a sack from the bam, and let 
us go back to the house,' said Tolstoy — who had already 
greeted me warmly, without losing sight of the carp-capturing 
operations the while. 

The Countess immediately detached a huge key from her 

^ This word, when first invented by Nicholas Tolstoy, meant ploughing, 
but it bad by now come to mean £&nning in general. 


belt and gave it to a boy, who started at a run to fulfil 
the order. 

' There/ remarked the Count, ' you have an example of our 
method. We keep the keys ourselves; and all the estate 
business is carried on by boys.' 

At the animated dinner table, the carp we had seen captured 
made their appearance. We all seemed equally at ease and 
happy. . . . 

That evening was one truly ' filled with hope.' It was a 
sight to see with what pride and bright hope Tati^na Alexibi- 
drovna, the kindest of aunts, regarded the young people she so 
loved; and how, turning to me, she said frankly, 'You see, 
with mon cher Lion of course things could not be otherwise.' 

As to the Countess, life to one who in her condition leapt 
over fences, could not but be lit up with the brightest of hopes. 
The Count himself, who had passed his whole life in an ardent 
search for novelties, evidently at this period entered a world 
till then unknown, in the mighty future of which he believed 
with all the enthusiasm of a young artist. I myself, during 
that evening, was carried away by the general tone of careless 
happiness, and did not feel the stone of Sisyphus oppressing 

Soon after this visit, on S8th June 1863, a son, Sergius, 
was bom. During the first eleven years of marriage, the 
Countess bore her husband eight children, and another five 
during the next fifteen years: making in all, thirteen 
children in twenty-six years. 

But we must turn back a few months to mention the 
stories by Tolstoy which appeared during this year. 

In the January number of the Russian Messenger^ Eatkdf 
had published The Cossacks^ which Tolstoy had kept back 
to revise, and had only delivered in December. 

In the February number of the same magazine appeared 
PoUkoiishka^ the story of a serf who, having lost some 
money belonging to his mistress, hangs himself. 

These stories are referred to in the following letter from 
Tolstoy to Fet, undated, but written in 1863 : 

Both your letters were equally important, significant, and 


agreeable to me^ dear Afan^sy Afan^syevitch. I am living in a 
world so remote from literature and its critics, that on receiv- 
ing such a letter as yours, my first feeling is one of astonishment. 
Whoever was it wrote The Cossacks and Polikoushka? And 
what 's the use of talking about them ? Paper endures any- 
thing, and editors pay for and print anything. But that is 
merely a first impression ; afterwards one enters into the mean- 
ing of what you say, rummages about in one's head, and finds 
in some comer of it, among old, forgotten rubbish, something 
indefinite, labelled Ari; and pondering on what you say, 
agrees that you are right, and even finds it pleasant to rummage 
about in that old rubbish, amid the smell one once loved. One 
even feels a desire to write. Of course, you are right. But 
then there are few readers of your sort. Polikoushka is the 
chatter of a man who * wields a pen,' on the first theme that 
comes to hand ; but The Cossacks has some matter in it, though 
poor. I am now writing the story of a pied gelding, which I 
expect to print in autumn. [It did not appear till 1888 !] But 
how can one write now.> Invisible efforts — and even visible 
ones — are now going on ; and, moreover, I am again up to my 
ears in farming. So is S6nya. We have no steward ; we have 
assistants for field-work and building ; but she, single-handed, 
attends to the office and the cash. I have the bees, the sheep, 
a new orchard, and the distillery. It all progresses, little by 
little, though of course badly compared with our ideal. 

What do you think of the Polish business ? [the insurrection 
of 1 863, then breaking out]. It looks bad ! Shall we — you 
and I and Borisof — not have to take our swords down from 
their rusty nails ? . . . 

The bees, which Tolstoy here places first among his out- 
door duties, occupied much of his time, and he often spent 
hours studying the habits of these interesting creatures. 

Tourgenef, writing to Fet, commented on The Cossacks 
as follows : 

I read The Cossacks and went into ecstasies over it ; so did 
B6tkin. Only the personality of Olenin spoils the generally 
splendid impression. To contrast civilisation with fresh, prim- 
eval Nature, there was no need again to produce that dull. 


unhealthy fellow always preoccupied with himself. Why does 
Tolstoy not get rid of that nightmare ? 

Several months later he wrote : 

After you left, I read Tolstoy's PoUkoushka and marvelled 
at the strength of his huge talent. But he has used up too 
much material, and it is a pity he drowned the son. It makes 
it too terrible. But there are pages that are truly wonderful ! 
It made a cold shudder run down even my back^ though you 
know my back has become thick and coarse. He is a master, 
a master! 

Tolstoy was now fairly launched on the life he was 
destined to lead for sixteen years : a quiet, country life, 
occupied with family joys and cares. These years followed 
one another with so little change that the story of a decade 
and a half can almost be compressed into a sentence. 
Children came in quick succession, two great novels and an 
ABC Book were produced, a large orchard was planted with 
apple-trees, the YAsnaya Polydna property was improved, 
and new estates were purchased east of the Volga. 

During the year 1863 Tolstoy wrote two plays, which 
have never been published. One, a farcical comedy called 
The Nihilisty was privately performed at home with great 
success. The second, also a comedy, written on a topic of 
the day, was called The hifected Family. Hoping to have 
it staged, Tolstoy took it to Moscow early in 1864; but 
the theatrical season, which in Russia ends at the com- 
mencement of Lent, was already too far advanced ; and 
he never subsequently appears to have troubled himself to 
have it either published or acted. 

The Countess Tolstoy's brother, S. A. Behrs (who from 
1866 when he was a boy of eleven, till 1878, spent every 
summer with the Tolstoys) in his book, RecoUectiona of 
Count Tolstoy^ gives much interesting information about 
the life at Ydsnaya. He mentions that it was a proverb 
about the hard fate of penniless noblemen, that prompted 
Tolstoy to take all possible care to provide for the future 


of his children ; and the passage in the letter quoted above, 
about the bees, sheep, new orchard and distillery with which 
he was occupied, shows how this care was applied. 

In his Confes9um^ Tolstoy says of the years now under 
review : 

Returning from abroad I married. The new conditions of 
happy family life completely diverted me from all search for 
the general meaning of life. My whole life was centred at 
that time in my family, wife and children, and in care to 
increase our means of livelihood. My striving after self- 
perfection and progress, was now again replaced by the effort 
simply to secure the best possible conditions for myself and my 

So another fifteen years passed. 

In spite of the fact that I regarded authorship as of no 
importance, I yet, during those fifteen years, continued to 
write. I had already tasted the temptation of authorship : the 
temptation of immense monetary rewards and applause for my 
insignificant work ; and 1 devoted myself to it as a means of 
improving my material position, and of stifling in my soul all 
questions as to the meaning of my own life, or of life in 

Again, writing in 1903 of this middle period of his life, 
Tolstoy says : 

Then came a third, an eighteen-year period which may be 
the least interesting of all (from my marriage to my spiritual 
re-birth) and which from a worldly point of view may be called 
moral : that is to say, that during those eighteen years 1 lived 
a correct, honest, family life, not indulging myself in any 
vices condemned by public opinion, but with interests wholly 
limited to selfish cares for my family, for the increase of our 
property, the acquisition of literary success, and all kinds of 

(In the one place he speaks of * fifteen years,"* and in the 
other of * eighteen years ** ; but that is his way, and chrono- 
logical exactitude is not the important matter here.) 


After the Emancipation, in many parts of Russia the 
landlords had more or less serious difficulty with the 
peasants, among whom stories were rife to the effect that 
the Tsar intended to give them all the land, but had been 
deceived by the officials into only giving half ; and, for a 
time, riots were not infrequent. There was no serious 
trouble of this sort on Tolstoy^s estate; but his sister 
(whom I met at Ydsnaya in 1902, long after her husband''8 
death and when she, a nun, had been allowed out of her 
convent to visit her brother, after his very serious illness) 
told me that on one occasion the peasants refused to make 
the hay ; and to save it from being lost, Tolstoy, his wife, 
the members of the family, and the masters from eleven 
neighbouring schools, all set to work with a will, and by 
their own strenuous exertions saved the crop before the 
weather changed. 

On settling down to married life, Tolstoy formed the plan 
of writing a great novel, and the epoch he at first intended 
to deal with was that of the Constitutional conspiracy 
which came to a head on the accession of Nicholas I to 
the throne in December 1825. That quite premature 
military plot was quickly snuffed out. So little were 
things ripe for it, that many even of the soldiers who shouted 
for a * Constitution "^ (Kofistitiiisia) thought they were 
demanding allegiance to NichoIas'*s elder brother Constantine, 
who having married a Polish lady of the Roman Catholic 
faith had renounced his right to the throne. While con- 
sidering the plan of his work, Tolstoy found himself carried 
back to the scenes amid which his characters had grown up : 
to the time of the Napoleonic wars and the invasion of 
Russia by the French in 1812. Here was a splendid back- 
ground for a novel, and putting aside The Decembrists he 
commenced War and Peace^ a work conceived on a gigantic 
scale, and that resulted in a splendid success. 

His attention, as we have already seen, was however not 
wholly absorbed by literature, but was divided between that 
and the management of his property. He had during his 


stay among the Kirghiz in the Province of Samdra, noticed 
how extremely cheap and how fertile was the land in those 
parts. He therefore wished to purchase an estate there, 
and visited the district in the autumn of 1864, probably 
with that end in view. How long he stayed there I do not 
know, but from a letter he wrote to Fet on 7th October, 
saying, ' We start for home to-day and do not know how 
we shall make our way to happy Yasnaya,^ we 
know when he returned. In November he again 
wrote to Fet, and mentioned the laborious preparations 
he was at that time making for War and Peace : 

I am in the dumps and am writing nothing, but work pain- 
fully. You cannot imagine how hard I find the preliminary 
work of ploughing deep the field in which I must sow. To 
consider and reconsider all that may happen to all the future 
characters in the very large work I am preparing, and to weigh 
millions of possible combinations in order to select from among 
them a millionth part^ is terribly difficult. And that is what I 
am doing. . . . 

Late in that month he wrote again to Fet : 

This autumn I have written a good deal of my novel. Ars 
Umga, vita hrevis comes to uiymind every day. If one could but 
make time to accomplish a hundredth part of what one under- 
stands — but only a thousandth part gets done ! Nevertheless 
the consciousness that / can is what brings happiness to men 
of our sort. You know that feeling, and I experience it with 
particular force this year. 

The year 1864 saw the publication of the first collected 
edition of Tolstoy's works, and tliough they have been 
already mentioned, it may be as well to give a complete 
list of those twenty ' trials of the pen "* which preceded the 
appearance of War and Peacc^ and had already sufficed to 
place Tolstoy in the front rank of Russian writers. The 
following are their titles, with the years in which they 


were first published. They suffice to fill four very sub- 
stantial volumes. 

1852 ChUdhood. 

1853 The Raid: A Volunteer's Story. 

1854 Boyhood. 

1855 Memoirs of a BiUiard- Marker. 

1855 * Sevastopol in December. 
„ * Sevastopol in May. 

„ *The Wood-Felling. 

1856 *Sevastopol in August. 
„ 7%^ Snow Storm. 

„ *T\vo Hussars. 

,, ^Meeting a Moscow Acquaintance in the Detachment. 

„ A Sqtiire*s Morning. 

1857 Youth. 

„ Lucerne. 

1858 ATheH. 

1859 Three Deaths. 

,, Family Happiness. 

186S Educational articles in Yasnaya Polyana. 

1863 The Cossacks. 

„ PoUkoitshka. 

As I am sometimes asked where satisfactory versions of these 
stories can be found, I make no apology for quoting a letter 
Tolstoy wrote me on 23rd December 1901, concerning the 
volume, Sevastopol^ translated by my wife and myself, and 
containing the six stories marked * in the above list. I 
do this with less hesitation, because his letter illustrates the 
cordial way in which he encourages those who do any work 
he can approve of, in connection with his own activity : 

I think I already wrote you how unusually the volume 
pleases me. All in it is excellent : the edition and the foot- 
notes, and chiefly the translation, and yet more the conscien- 
tiousness with which all this has been done. I happened to 

1 Published by Messrs. A. Constable and Co., London, and Funk and 
WagnalbCo., New York. 


open it at Two Hussars and read on to the end just as if it 
were something new that had been written in English. 

One day in October Tolstoy went out for a ride on his 
favourite horse, an English thoroughbred named Mdshka. 
His borzoi dogs Lubka and Krylat accompanied him. After 
he had ridden some way, a hare suddenly started up and 
the dogs rushed after it. Tolstoy had not come out with the 
idea of hunting, but on seeing the dogs chasing the hare he 
could not restrain himself, and galloped after them, uttering 
the hunting cry, ' Atou ! ' The weather was bad, the ground 
slippery, and the horse stumbled at a narrow ravine and fell, 
dislocating and breaking its rider^s arm. The horse ran 
away, and Tolstoy, who was quite alone and several miles 
from home, fainted. When he came to, he managed to 
drag himself a distance of more than half a mile to the high- 
road, where he lay in great pain. Some peasant carts passed 
by, but at first he could not attract any one''s attention. 
When at last he was noticed, in order not to alarm his wife, 
he asked to be taken to the hut of an old wife, Akoulina, 
famed as a bone-setter. In spite of all that she and her 
son Ivan could do — soaping, pulling, twisting and bandaging 
the arm — they could not set it, and Tolstoy continued to 
suffer the greatest pain. 

The Countess, who had meanwhile heard of the accident, 
reached the hut late at night. She at once arranged to have 
her husband taken home, and sent to Toula for a doctor. 
The latter arrived about 3 a.m., and after administering 
chloroform, succeeded, with the aid of two labourers who 
were called in to assist, in setting the arm. On coming to, 
Tolstoy's profound disbelief in the efficiency of doctors, 
prompted him to send for another surgeon. After a con- 
sultation the two physicians decided that everything had 
been done properly, and that Tolstoy must lie up for six 
weeks to allow the arm to recover. When that time was 
up, Tolstoy asked for his gun and fired it off to test his 
arm. No sooner had he done so than he again felt great 


pain. He thereupon wrote to his father-in-law, Dr. 
Behrs, and on his advice went to Moscow to consult the 
specialists. These differed among themselves, but after a 
week^s hesitation a fresh operation was decided upon, 
and was carried out by two competent surgeons. This 
time it was quitei successful, and in due course the patient 
completely recovered the use of his arm. 

Meanwhile the Countess (now nursing her second child, 
a daughter named Tatidna who had been bom in September) 
remained at Ydsnaya, where her eldest child, Sergius, was 
taken dangerously ill with smallpox and diarrhoea. This 
was the first occasion on which Tolstoy and his wife had 
been separated. 

While in Moscow he concluded an arrangement with 
Katkdf by which he received Rs. 500 (£75) per printed sheet 
of sixteen pages for the serial rights in War and Peace^ 
which appeared in the Russian Messenger. This was just 
ten times the amount which, when he wrote his first stories, 
Nekrdsof had mentioned as the highest rate paid to any one 
for the magazine rights in a story. 

On ^rd January 1865, when Tolstoy had got over his acci- 
dent, he wrote Fet another of those jocular letters 
which sometimes contain more of the real truth than 
will bear saying seriously : 

Shall I tell you something surprising about myself? When 
the horse threw me and broke my arm^ and when I came to 
after fainting, I said to myself: ' I am an author/ And I am 
an author, but a solitary^ on-the-quiet kind of author. ... In 
a few days the first part of ' The Year 1805 ' [so the first part of 
War and Peace was originally called] will appear. Please write 
me your opinion of it in detail. I value your opinion and that 
of a man whom I dislike the more^ the more I grow tip— 
Tourg6nef. He will understand. All I have printed hitherto 
I consider but a trial of my pen ; what I am now printings 
though it pleases me better than my former work, still seems 
weak — as an Introduction must be. But what follows will 
be — tremendous !!!... Write what is said about it in the 


different places you know^ and especially how it goes with the 
general public. No doubt it will pass unnoticed. I expect and 
wish it to do so ; if only they don't abuse me^ for abuse upsets 
one. . . . 

I am glad you like my wife ; though I love her less than my 
novel, still, you know, she is my wife. Be sure you come to 
visit us; for if you and Marya Petr6vna do not stay here 
on your return from Moscow it will really, without a joke, be 
too stupid ! 

In May 1865 one sees by a letter of Tol8toy'*s to Fet that 
one of the children had been ill and he himself had been 
in bed for three days and barely escaped a fever. His 
wife'*s younger sister, Tdnya, she of the contralto voice 
who (with some admixture of his wife) served Tolstoy 
as model for Natdsha in War and Peace^ was spending the 
summer at Ydsnaya, as she had done each year since her 
sister'^s marriage. The Countess Mary and her children 
were also there. The children, he says, were well, and out 
all day in the open air. He adds : 

I continue to write little by little, and am content with my 
work. The woodcock still attract me, and every evening I 
shoot at Uiein, that is, generally, past them. My farming goes 
on well, that is to say, it does not disturb me much — which is 
all I demand of it. . . . 

In reply to a suggestion from Fet, lie goes on to say that 
he will not write more about the Ydsno-Polydna school, 
but hopes some day to express the conclusions to which 
his three years'* ardent passion for that work had brought 
him. Then comes a i-eference to the state of agricultural 
affairs after the Emancipation, and a passing allusion 
to the question of famine — a subject destined to make 
great demands on Tolstoy's attention in later years : 

Our affairs as agriculturists are now like those of a share- 
holder whose shares have lost value and are unsaleable on 
'Change. The case is a bad one. Personally I only ask that 


it should not demand of me so much attention and participation 
as to deprive me of my tranquillity. Latterly I have been 
content with my private affairs ; but the general trend — with 
the impending misery of famine — torments me more and more 
every day. It is so strange, and even good and terrible. We 
have rosy radishes on our table, and yellow butter, and well- 
baked, soft bread on a clean tablecloth ; the garden is green, 
and our young ladies in muslin dresses are glad it is hot and 
shady ; while there that evil hunger-devil is already at work, 
covering the fields with goose-weed, chafing the hard heels of 
the peasants and their wives, and cracking the hoofs of the 
cattle. Our weather, the com, and the meadows, are really 
terrible. How are they with you ? 

The letter closes with advice to Fet to transfer his chief 
attention from the land to literature, and a statement that 
Tolstoy himself has done so, and is finding life less difficult. 

When Tolstoy with his setter, Dora, went out shooting 
on foot. Miss Tatidna Behrs (the Tdnya alluded to above) 
used to accompany him on horseback. 

Between this lady and Count Sergius Tolstoy (Leo''8 
elder brother) an attachment had grown up which caused 
great distress to them both, for, besides being twenty-two 
years older than the lady, Sergius was living with, and had a 
family by, the gipsy mentioned in a previous chapter, though 
he was not legally married. His affection for his family pre- 
vented his yielding completely to his love for Tdnya and 
askiqg her to be his wife. The Behrs were quite willing 
that he should do so, and the young lady would have 
accepted him, and was much pained by the vacillation that 
resulted from the battle between his love for her and his 
affection for his family. Ultimately he resolved to be faith- 
ful to the union he had formed, and, in order to legitimise 
his children, went through the form of marriage with their 
mother in 1867. Almost at the same time, Tdnya, having re- 
covered from her disappointment, married a Mr. Eouzminsky . 

Here again one gets a slight glimpse of the experience of 
life which has led Tolstoy, contrary to the opinion general 


among the Russian * intelligents/ to advocate faithfulness 
at all costs to the woman with whom one has once formed a 

A knowledge of Tdnya^'s story adds to the interest with 
which, in Tolstoy's great novel, one reads of Natdsha 
Rdstofs troubles and ultimate happiness. 

Towards the end of May, Tolstoy visited the estate of 
Nikdlsky (which after the death of his brother Nicholas 
had become his), and had the house there repaired. In 
June the whole family moved to Nikdlsky, where they 
lived very quietly ; Tolstoy continuing to write War and 
Peace. His friend D. A. Dy^kofs estate was only ten 
miles away, and Tolstoy saw much of him at this time, 
besides having him at other times as a frequent visitor 
at Ydsnaya. Dydkof was his chief adviser in agricul- 
tural matters, as well as in his efforts to improve the stock 
of his cattle, pigs and poultry. Almost the only other 
visitors at Nikdlsky were the Fets; and the poet records 
meeting there the Countess'*s * charming sister,' Tdnya, and 
experiencing violent antipathy for the sour kouniys, about 
which Tolstoy was enthusiastic, and a large tub of which 
stood near the front door. 

While living at Nikdlsky Tolstoy was invited for a fort- 
night by a neighbouring landlord, Kireyevsky, to a grand 
hunt, in which the huntsmen wore special costumes, and 
luxurious dinners were served in the woods. What inter- 
ested Tolstoy most in all this was not the hunt, but the 
opportunity it afforded him of studying types of the old 
and new aristocracy. 

At this period of his life one hears of his playing the 
guitar and singing passionate love -songs. 

During the autumn of 1865 Tolstoy, accompanied by his 
eleven -year-old brother-in-law, visited the battlefield 
Borodino. They left Moscow in Dr. Behrs' carriage, with 
post-horses. When the time came for them to have some- 
thing to eat, they found that the lunch basket had been 
left behind, and they had only a small basket of grapes. 


Thereupon Tolstoy remarked to his companion, * I am sorry, 
not that we have lejft the basket of food behind, but because 
your father will be upset and will be angry with his 
man." The journey took only one day, and they stayed 
at the monastery erected in memory of those who fell in 
the great fight. For two days Tolstoy investigated the 
scene of the conflict which he was about to describe in 
his novel, and he then drew the plan of the fight which 
appears in that work. Even in 1866 there were but few 
survivors of the campaign of 1812 to be found in the neigh- 

Tolstoy used at this time to spend whole days in the 
Roumydntsef Museum in Moscow, studying books and manu- 
scripts relating to the times of Alexander I, and especially 
to the reformatory and Masonic movements which then 
sprang up in Russia, but were subsequently suppressed on 
political grounds. 

S. A. Behrs tells us that Tolstoy 

was always fond of children, and liked to have them about 
him. He easily won their confidence, and seemed to have 
found the key to their hearts. He appeared to have no 
difficulty in suiting himself to a strange child, and with a single 
question set it completely at ease, so that it began at once to 
chat away with perfect freedom. Independently of this, he 
could divine a child's thought with the skill of a trained 
educationalist. I remember his children sometimes running up 
to him, and telling him they had a great secret ; and when they 
persisted in refusing to divulge it, he would quietly whisper 
in their ears what it was. 'Ah, what a papa ours is ! How did 
he find it out ? ' they would cry, in astonishment. 

He also says : 

Gifted by nature with rare tact and delicacy, he is extremely 
gentle in his bearing and conduct to others. I never heard him 
scold a servant. Yet they all had the greatest respect for him, 
were fond of him, and seemed even to fear him. Nor, with all 
his zeal for sport, have I ever seen him whip a dog or beat 
his hone. 


A servant who lived with him more than twenty years 
has said : ' Living in the Counfs house from my childhood, I 
loved Leo Nikolayevitch as though he were my father'; and 
in another place he remarks : 

The Count had a stern appearance, but treated the servants 
excellently, and made things easy for all strangers whom he 
met. He has a very good heart, and when he was cross with 
me for anything, I, knowing his character, used at once to 
leave the room, and when next he called me, it was as though 
nothing unpleasant had happened. 

Speaking of Tolstoy'*s later years the same servant says : 

Leo Nikolayevitch has now become quite a different man. 
From 1865 to 1870 he was active in managing the estate, and 
was fond of cows, bred sheep, looked after the property, and, 
in a word, attended to everything. At that time he was hot- 
tempered and impulsive. He would order the trap to be 
brought when he wanted to go hunting. His man, Alexis, 
would bring him his hunting-boots, and the Count would shout 
at him, * Why have you not dried them.'^ You are not worth 
your salt ! ' Alexis, knowing the Count's character, would 
take the boots away, and bring them back almost directly. 
' There ! now they 're all right,* the Count would say, and 
would brighten up instantly. 

His love of the country and his dislike of towns sprang 
partly from his keen appreciation of the charm and loveli- 
ness of Nature. He saw fresh l)eauty every day, and often 
exclaimed : ' What wealth God has ! He gives each day 
something to distinguisli it from all the rest."* 

Sportsman and agriculturist himself, he maintains that 
spoilsmen and agriculturists alone know Nature. To quote 
Behrs again : 

No bad weather was allowed to interfere with his daily walk. 
He could put up with loss of appetite, from which he occa- 
sionally suffered, but he could never go a day without a sharp 
walk in the open air. In general, he was fond of active move- 
ment, riding, gymnastics, but particularly walking. If his 
literary work chanced to go badly, or if he wished to throw off 


the effects of any unpleasantness^ a long walk was his sovereign 
remedy. He could walk the whole day without fatigue ; and 
we have frequently ridden together for ten or twelve hours. In 
his study he kept a pair of dumb-bells, and sometimes had 
gymnastic apparatus erected there. 

All luxury was distasteful to him ; and much that ordi- 
nary people regard as common comforts, seemed to him 
harmful indulgences, bad for the souls and bodies of men. 
Nothing could well be more simple than the arrangement 
of his house at Ydsnaya, substantial and solidly built as it 
was, with its parquet floors and double windows, and the 
Dutch stoves so necessary to warm a Russian house. 

He was not at all particular about what he ate, but 
objected to a soft bed or spring mattress, and at one time 
he used to sleep on a leather-covered sofa. 

He dressed very simply, and when at home never wore 
starched shirts or tailor-made clothes, but adapted to his 
own requirements the ordinary Russian blouse, having it 
made of woollen stuff for winter, and of linen for summer. 
His out-door winter dress was also an adaptation of the 
sheepskin shoiiba and peasants'* caftan^ made of the plainest 
material ; and these afforded such good protection from the 
weather that they were often borrowed by members of the 
household as well as by visitors. 

During the writing of War and Peace Tolstoy generally 
enjoyed good spirits, and on days when his work had gone 
well, he would gleefully announce that he had left * a bit of 
my life in the inkstand.** One of his chief recreations was 
to go out hare-hunting with bor7X)i dogs, and this he often 
did in company with a neighbouring landed proprietor, 

From October 1866 he ceased to keep his Diary, and did 
not renew it during the period covered by this volume. 

On Twelfth Night a grand masquerade was held at 
Yiisnaya, and the festivities were kept up till past -g^g 
two in the morning, and were followed by a troika 
drive next day. 


That same January the family moved to Moscow, where 
they hired a six-roomed apartment for Rs. 155 a month 
(say about £9S); and there they remained for six weeks 
while the second part of War and Peace was being printed 
for the Russian Messenger. 

^ Among the friends Tolstoy saw most of at this time were 
Aks^lcof and Prince Obol^nsky. He also attended the 
Moscow drawing school, and he tried his hand at sculpture — 
modelling a bust of his wife. It does not appear, however, 
that he continued this occupation long. 

In May 1866 a second son, Uya, was bom, and an 
English nurse introduced into the family. 

During this summer an infantry regiment was stationed 
near Ydsnaya, in which a young Sub-Lieutenant named 
Kolokdltsef was serving, whom the Countess Tolstoy had 
known in Moscow. He visited the Tolstoys, and intro- 
duced to them his Colonel Unosha, and his fellow-oflBoer 
Ensign Stasul^vitch (brother of the Liberal editor who was 
then founding the monthly magazine, TTie Messenger of 
Europe). Ensign Stasulevitch was middle-aged. He had 
been condemned to serve in the ranks for some political or 
other offence, and had but recently become an oiBcer and 
joined the regiment commanded by his former comrade. 
Colonel Unosha. 

One day Stasulevitch and Kolokoltsef called on Tolstoy 
and told him that a soldier, serving as secretary in one of 
the companies of the regiment, had struck his Company 
Commander, and was to be tried by court-martial. They 
asked Tolstoy to undertake the man'^s defence, and he, 
having always regarded capital punishment with abhorrence, 
readily agreed to do so. 

The circumstances of the case were these. The soldier, 
Shibounin, was a man of very limited intelligence, whose 
chief occupation was writing out reports. When he had 
any money he spent it on solitary drinking. The Captain 
in command of his company, a Pole, apparently disliked 
him, and frequently found fault with his reports and made 


him rewrite them. This treatment Shibounin bitterly 
resented; and one day, when he had been drinking, on 
being told to rewrite a document he had prepared, he 
insulted and struck the Captain. By law the penalty for 
a private who strikes his officer is death. Tolstoy never- 
theless hoped to save the man'^s life, and obtained permission 
to plead on his behalf. The trial took place on 6th June, 
and the members of the court-martial were Colonel Unosha, 
Stasuldvitch, and Kolokdltsef ; the latter being merely a 
light-headed youngster. 

Tolstoy, when telling me of the incident, remarked that 
of the three occasions on which he has spoken in public, 
this was the time that he did so with most assurance and 
satisfaction to himself. He had written out his speech ; the 
main point of which was that Shibounin was not responsible 
for his actions, being abnormal, and having from the com- 
bined effect of intemperance and the monotony of his 
occupation, become idiotic and obsessed by an idea that 
his Company Commander did not understand report writing, 
and unfairly rejected work faultlessly done. The law de- 
crees a mitigation of sentence for crimes committed by 
those who are not in the full possession of tlieir senses ; and 
as this contradicts the paragraph allotting death as the sole 
punishment for a soldier who strikes his officer, Tolstoy 
argued that mercy should be extended to the prisoner. 

The Court adjourned to consider its verdict, and (as 
Tolstoy subsequently learnt) Stasul^vitch was in favour of 
mercy. The Colonel, who was more of a military machine 
than a human being, demanded the death sentence, and the 
decision therefore rested with the boyish Sub-Lieutenant, 
who (submitting to his Colonel) voted for death. 

Tolstoy wished to appeal (through his aunt, the Countess 
A. A. Tolstoy) to Alexander II for a pardon; but with 
characteristic disregard of details, he omitted to mention the 
name of the regiment in which the affair had occurred, and 
this enabled the Minister of War, Milutin, to delay the 
presentation of the petition until Shibounin had been shot ; 


which occurred on 9th August. Tolstoy's appeal never, 
therefore, reached the Emperor. 

In conti* with the action of the Colonel and the 
Minister, was that of the peasants of the district, who 
flocked in crowds to see the prisoner; bringing him milk, 
eggs, home-made linen and all the gifts their poverty could 
afford. When the day of execution arrived, Shibounin went 
quite impassively to his death ; to all appearance incapable 
of understanding what was happening. The people thronged 
around the post to which he was to be tied — the women 
weeping and some of them fainting. They fetched a priest 
to perform Masses at his grave, and paid for the service to be 
repeated all day. At night contributions of copper money, 
linen, and candles such as are burnt in Russian churches, 
were laid upon his grave. Next day the Masses were 
recommenced, and were continued until the local police for- 
bade any more religious services, and levelled the grave that 
the people might not continue to visit it. 

The knowledge of such a difference between the spirit of 
the governors and the governed, helps us to understand 
Tolstoy'*s ultimate conviction that Government and the 
administration of law is essentially an evil thing, always 
tending to make the world worse and not better. In later 
life we may be sure he would not have been content to 
base his plea for mercy on merely legal grounds. 

From time to time he continued to be troubled with ill- 
health ; for instance, in July 1866 he writes that he is 
confined to the house with pains in the stomach which make 
it impossible for him to turn cjuickly. 

In November — contrary to what he had often said in the 
past and was to return to in later life — he expresses his 
sense of the impoi-tance of authorship. Fet, criticising 
something in War and Peace ^ had quoted the words, irri- 
tabilis poetarum gens^ and Tolstoy, replying * Not I,' wel- 
comes the criticism, begs for more, and goes on to say : 

What have you been doing ? Not on the Z^mstvo [County 
Council] or in fanning (all that is compulsory activity such as 


we do elementally and with as little will of our own as the ants 
who make an ant-hill ; in that sphere there is nothing good or 
bad)^ but what are you doing in thought^ with the mainspring 
of your being, which alone has been^ and is, and will endure 
in the world ? Is that spring still alive ? Does it wish to 
manifest itself? How does it express its wish? Or has it 
forgotten how to express itself ? That is the chief thing. 

By the autumn of this year the railway southwards from 
Moscow to Koursk had been constructed as far as Toula, 
making it easier to get from Yasnaya to Moscow, and to 
the rest of Europe. Yet Tolstoy comparatively seldom 
felt tempted to leave his much-loved, tranquil, busy, 
country life, in which alone he found himself able to work 
with the maximum of efficiency. 

About this time he undertook the planting of a birch 
wood, which has since grown up and become valuable. 

During the summer of 1867 Tolstoy, despite the dislike 
and distrust of doctors — which he shares with Rousseau, 
and which he has again and again expressed in his 
works — was induced by the state of his health and 
by his wife'*s persuasion, to consult the most famous Moscow 
doctor of the time. Professor Zahurin, on whose advice he 
drank mineral water during several weeks. 

Writing to Fet he says : 

If I wrote to you, dear friend, every time I think of you, you 
would receive two letters a day from me. But one cannot get 
everything said, and sometimes one is lazy and sometimes too 
busy, as is the case at present. I have recently returned from 
Moscow and have begun a strict cure under the direction of 
Zaharin ; and most important of all, 1 am printing my novel at 
Ris's, and have to prepare and send off MSS. and proofs every 
day under threat of a fine and of delayed publication. That is 
both pleasant and also hard, as you know. 

He goes on to criticise Tourgenef s novel, Dym (Smoke)^ 
which had appeared that year : 

About Smoke I meant to write long ago, and, of course, just 
what you have now written. That is why we love one another — 


because we think alike with the ' wisdom of the heart ' as you 
call it (Thank you very much for that letter alto: 'the 
wisdom of the heart ' and ' the wisdom of the mind ' explain 
much to me.) About Smoke I think that the strength of poetry 
lies in love ; and the direction of that strength depends on 
character. Without strength of love there is no poetry ; but 
strength falsely directed — the result of the poet's having an 
unpleasant^ weak character — creates dislike. In Smoke there is 
hardly any love of anything^ and very little poetry. There is 
only love of light and plajrful adultery, and therefore the 
poetry of that novel is repulsive. That, as you see, is just what 
you write about it. Only I fear to express this opinion because 
I cannot look soberly at the author, whose personality I do not 
like ; but I fancy my impression is the general one. One more 
writer played out ! 

In November 1867 we find the whole family again 
established for a while in a lodging in Moscow, where they 
seem to have remained for a large part of the winter. 

Here Fet visited Tolstoy and announced to him that he 
had decided to arrange a Literary Evening for the benefit 
of the famine-stricken peasants of M tsensk, the district in 
which Fef^s estate lay. Tolstoy met the suggestion with 
irony, maintaining that Fet liad invented the famine ; and 
in reply to a request that he would ensure the success of 
the evening by reading something, flatly refused to do so, 
declaring that he never had and never could do such a thing 
as read in public. Still, he lent Fet the chapter of War and 
Peace containing the wonderful description of the retreat 
of the Russian army from Smolensk in fearful drought. 
This as yet existed only in proof, not having been published. 
(It forms Chapter V of Part X of Volume II in Mrs. 
Constance Garnett's version : the best English rendering 
of that novel.) Read by Prince Kougoiishef, the poet and 
dramatist, it evoked thunders of applause. 

18t>8 ^" ^^^^ ^P"' ^^^ Tourgenef, writing to Fet, 
said : 

I have just finished the fourth volume of War and Peace. 


There are things in it that are unbearable, and things that are 
wonderful ; and the wonderful things (they predominate) are so 
magnificently good that we have never had anything better 
written by anybody ; and it is doubtful whether anything as 
good has been written. 

About the same time V. P. Botkin wrote from Peters- 
burg : * Tolstoy's novel is having a really remarkable success ; 
every one here is reading it, and they not merely read it 
but become enthusiastic about it.' 

The Epilogue was not completed till late in 1869. On 

30th August Tolstoy writes: *Part VI \i.e. Part II 

. 1869 

of the Epilogue] which I expected to have 

finished a month ago, is not ready ' ; and then in the next 

sentence, he goes into ecstasies over Schopenhauer : 

Do you know what this summer has been for me ? An un- 
ceasing ecstasy over Schopenhauer, and a series of mental 
enjoyments such as I never experienced before. I have bought 
all his works, and have read and am reading them (as well as 
Kant's). And assuredly no student in his course has learnt so 
much and discovered so much as I have during this summer. I 
do not know whether I shall ever change my opinion, but at 
present I am confident that Schopenhauer is the greatest genius 
among men. You said he had written something or other on 
philosophic subjects. What do you mean by 'something or 
other' ? It is the whole world in an extraordinarily vivid and 
beautiful reflection. I have begun translating him. Won't you 
take up that work } We would publish it together. After 
reading him I cannot conceive how his name can remain 
unknown. The only explanation is the one he so often 
repeats, that except idiots there is scarcely any one else in the 
world. . . . 

He goes on to say that he was starting next day for the 
Government of Penza to look at an estate he meant to buy 
*in those out-of-the-way parts.* The servant who accom- 
panied Tolstoy has told how they travelled third class from 
Moscow to Nizhni, and how Tolstoy chatted with his fellow- 
travellers, so that many of them took him * for a common 


man.' The idea of buying the estate in Penza was 
ultimately abandoned. 

He had by then completed tlie last part of War and 
PeacCy which was to appear complete in book form in 
November. Two volumes had been published in 1866, 
three more in 1868, and the sixth was not ready till this 
year, 1869. (In subsequent editions the book was re- 
arranged, first into five and then into four volumes.) 

Though he had so completely conquered the laziness of 
which lie accused himself in early manhood as to have 
become a regular, indefatigable and extremely hard worker, 
yet after the completion of so gigantic a task he felt 
the need of recuperation and in summer wrote to Fet : ' It 
is now my deadest time : I neither write nor think, but feel 
happily stupid,"* and he adds that he goes out shooting 
woodcock and has killed eight at an outing. 

That at this time he already felt something of the 
strong repugnance he so strenuously expressed in later 
years for luxury and profuse expenditure, is indicated 
by his comment on the death of his acquaintance, the 
author V. P. B()tkin, which took place in 1869. The 
latter, a member of a wealthy family of tea- merchants, having 
lived with economy till he knew his death was approaching, 
then hired a splendid lodging in Petersburg, fitted it up 
with all possible comfort and luxury, engaged a chef from 
the kitchen of the Tsarevitch, paid daily attention to the 
dinner mcnu^ and engaged famous musicians to perform 
quartets at his lodgings. To the magnificent feasts he gave 
every day (at which, owing to the state of his health, he him- 
self piirtici))ated chiefly as a spectator) he gathered a select 
circle of those friends whose conversation interested him. 
He told his brother that these aiTangements for the close of 
his life gave him the keenest pleasure, and that * birds of 
Paradise are singing in my soul.** On 4th October a quartet 
and a banquet had been arranged as usual, and many guests 
were expected — but V. P. B()tkin lay dead in his bed. 

Tolstoy, hearing of this, wrote to Fet : 


I was terribly shocked by the character of V. P. BcHkin's 
death. If what is told of it is true, it is terrible. How is it 
that among his friends not one was found to give to that 
supreme moment of life the character suitable to it ? 

Before War and Peace was finished, the Countess had 
borne five children — nursing them herself, as she did all her 
subsequent children. Only in the case of her fourth child 
and second daughter, Mary, was she unable (and this owing 
to the neglect of an attendant) to feed her child herself. 
Her willingness to do her duty in this respect was ex- 
ceptional among women of her class, for the employment 
of wet-nurses was extremely common in Russia. In the 
case of her daughter Mary, a wet-nurse was engaged ; but 
as soon as the mother saw her child at a stranger's 
breast she burst into a flood of jealous tears, dismissed the 
nurse on the spot, and ordered the child to be fed with 
a bottle. Tolstoy, when he heard what had happened, 
declared that his wife had only shown the jealous affection 
natural to a true mother. The fifth child was a boy, 
born on 20th May 1869, and christened Leo. 

Up to the age of ten, the children were taught Russian 
and music by the Countess, and she even found time to make 
their clothes herself till they reached that age. Besides 
managing the household, her brother tells us that during the 
composition of War and Peace she found time to copy it out 
no less than seven times, a statement hardly to be taken 
literally : for greatly as Tolstoy believes in the proverb that 
* Gold is got by sifting," and indefatigably as he revises his 
work, not all the chapters of War and Peace will have been 
revised that number of times. With Tolstoy the children 
learnt arithmetic ; and they learnt to read French out of 
illustrated volumes of Jules Verne. 

In all that concerned the education of the children, his 
wife at this time willingly constituted herself the executant 
of her husband's decisions, which were based largely on J. J. 
Rousseau's Amik^ and were relaxed only in so far as the 
Countess was unable to carry them out, and as Tolstoy found 


himself too much occupied with other afTairs to attempt to 
do so. Later on there was less accord between the parents. 

With the first child they tried to do without a nurse, but 
the attempt was unsuccessful, and subsequently Russian 
nurses and foreign bonnes were employed. 

Toys were not allowed in the nursery, but much liberty 
was given to the children. No violent or severe punish- 
ments were inflicted on them, and none but their parents 
might award the punishments that were administered. The 
parents aimed at gaining their children's confidence by 
timely petting and kindly treatment. 

If one of the children told a falsehood, this was treated as 
a serious matter, and the punishment usually consisted in 
the parents treating the child coldly. As soon, however, as 
it showed that it was really sorry, the punishment ceased ; 
but a child was never persuaded to say it was sorry or to 
promise not to repeat its fault. 

All the grown-up people in the house were expected to 
remember that children are apt to copy and imitate all that 
they see and hear; and the children were not kept away 
from the adults, except at lesson time. Consequently when 
eight ©''clock came and the children went to bed, Tolstoy 
would often remark : ' Now, we are freer ! ** 

Partly that they might learn English, partly because 
Tolstoy believed that education was freer in England than 
elsewhere, young English governesses were engaged to take 
charge of his children from the age of three to nine. He 
was extremely fortunate in his first choice, for the young 
lady remained with the Tolstoys for six years, and after her 
marriage continued in most friendly relations with the 
whole family. 

He aimed at acquainting the children with Nature, and 
developing their love of it, of animals, and of insects. He 
liked to let them realise their impotence and complete 
dependence on their elders, but he always did this with 
kindly consideration. 

The children were not allowed to order the servants 


about, but had to ask them for an3rthing they wanted ; 
and that a good example might be set, every one in the 
house was expected to do the same. This was the more 
important, because the peasant servants in Russia, even 
after the Emancipation, were scarcely regarded as belonging 
to the same race of human beings as their masters, and a 
famous Russian author could say without any exaggeration, 
*The balcony was rotten. Only servants went there; the 
family did not go there.' But, to avoid giving a wrong im- 
pression, I must here make a reservation. Just because 
there was no idea of the two classes overlapping, and because 
so wide a gap existed between them that they dressed quite 
differently (the peasants having their own costume and style 
of garments) very cordial and sincere good feeling often grew 
up between master and man, or between proprietress and 
servant, and real human interest, such as is shown in Tolstoy's 
descriptions of the servants in Childhood^ and in his other 
stories. It was, and is, not at all unusual for Russian 
servants to intervene in the conversation of the family or 
visitors; and the whole relation between employers and 
employed was quite different to what it is in England, 
where on Sundays the maid might be mistaken for her 
mistress, except that she often looks more attractive than 
the latter. 

The plan adopted in the Yasno-Polydna school, where 
no child was obliged to learn anything it did not care to 
learn, had to be abandoned in the family ; but some scope 
was allowed to the children to reject what they had no 
capacity for, and they were never punished for neglecting 
to prepare lessons, though they were rewarded when they 
learnt well. 

To illustrate Tolstoy's way of developing the minds of 
those about him, Behrs tells of his own case when, as a 
youth, he stayed at Ydsnaya : 

Regardless of my youth at the time, I remember that Tolstoy 
discussed quite seriously with me all the scientific and philo- 
sophic questions it came into my head to put to him. He 


always answered simply and clearly, and never hesitated to 
admit the fact if he himself did not understand this or that 
matter. Oflen my talk with him took the form of a dispute, 
on which I embarked in spite of my consciousness of his 
immense superiority. 

The children were always eager to go for walks with their 
father, to answer his call to practise Swedish gymnastics, and 
to be on his side in any game ho taught them. In winter 
they skated a good deal; but clearing the snow off the 
pond under his leadership was an even greater pleasure than 
the skating itself. 

Before breakfast he would go for a walk with his brother- 
in-law, or they would ride down to bathe in the river that 
flows by one side of the estate. At morning coffee the 
whole family assembled, and it was generally a very merry 
meal, Tolstoy being up to all sorts of jokes, till he rose with 
the words, * One must get to work,** and went oft' to his study, 
taking with him a tumblcM* full of tea. While at work in 
his room not even his wife was allowed to disturb him ; 
though at one time his second child and eldest daughter, 
Tatiiiua, while still (juite a little girl, was privileged to 
break this rule. The rare days (generally in summer) 
when he relaxed, were very welcome to the children, for 
their father's ])resenee always brought life and animation 
with it. Generally after dinner, lM?fore resuming work, 
he would read a took not directly connected with the task 
he had in hand. It was often an P]nglish novel ; and 
we hear of his reading Anthony TroUope with approval, 
Mrs. Henry Wood, who, he says, made a great impression 
on him, and Miss Bracldon. His dislike of George Sand 
remained unshaken, and he considered Cofi^n^lo to be a 
mixture of the pretentious and the spurious. Goethe 
(especially Fatiat) he admired ; while Moliere's plays and 
Hugo's Lcs Miscrablcs appealed to him very strongly 
indeed. In the evening he was fond of playing duets with 
his sister. He used to find it hai'd to keep up with her in 
playing long pieces with which he was not ([uite familiar. 


and when in difficulties he would say something to make 
her laugh, and cause her to play slower. If he did not 
succeed by means of this ruse, he would sometimes stop and 
solemnly take off one of his boots, as though that must 
infallibly help him out of the difficulty ; and he would then 
recommence, with the remark, ' Now, it will go all right I ^ 

During the early years of his married life few visitors 
came to Ydsnaya, except the numerous members of the 
Tolstoy-Behrs families, who stayed there chiefly in summer. 
The poet A. A. Fet, D. A. DyAkof, whom he had known 
from boyhood and had described in Youths N. N. Strdhof, 
the philosopher and critic, for whose judgment he had 
great respect and whom he frequently consulted throughout 
his literary career, and Prince S. S. Ourousof, the mathe- 
matician and chess player, already mentioned in Chapter IV, 
seem to have been almost the only friends who visited him 
in the years first following his marriage ; and this suited 
Tolstoy very well, for to entertain many visitors would have 
seriously interrupted the absorbing work in which he was 
continually engaged. 

Fet has so often been mentioned in this volume that it is 
time to devote a few lines to describing a man who has 
come in for much abuse on account of the anti-Emancipa- 
tionist sympathies expressed in some of his writings. Like 
Tolstoy, he had grown up with no idea that it is incumbent 
on men of education and capacity to organise the society of 
which they are members, or by political action to remedy 
such abuses as inevitably curise among human beings who 
do not keep the task of systematic social organisation con- 
stantly in view. Of the impression Fet^s political opinions 
made on the Liberals, one may judge by a remark Tourgenef 
addressed to him in a letter written in 1874 : * Twenty years 
ago, at the height of Nicholas Fs rigime^ you dumbfounded 
me by announcing your opinion that the mind of man 
could devise nothing superior to the position of the Russian 
aristocracy of that day, nor any thing ^-^'^ '>ler or more 
admirable.^ The Liberals saw in Fet a polhacal reactionary 


— and so he was ; but any one who reads his Recottections 
may also see how large a measure of personal worth can be 
combined with political indifferentism — a quality many 
Russians of his generation were brought up to regard as a 
virtue. In private life he was a really worthy man, and 
Tolstoy once very truly remarked to him : 

There are some people whose talk is far above their actual 
morality ; but there are also some whose talk is below that 
level. You are one who is so afraid of his sermon being above 
his practice^ that you intentionally talk far below your actual 

While still a young cavalry officer Fet began to write 
poetry, for which he had real talent ; and after leaving the 
army he continued his literary career as an Art-for-Axt's- 
sake-ist, producing admirable verse translations of Virgil, 
Horace, Ovid, Juvenal, Catullus, Tibullus, Propertius, and 
Persius, besides original works of his own in prose and 
verse, and (after Tolstoy^s suggestion, already recorded) 
translations from the Grerman of Schopenhauer''s 7%e World 
(U Will and Idea^ and Goethe's Fatist, 

In his dislike, or perhaps one should say ignorance, of 
politics, commerce, and that great industrial revolution of 
the Western world that has been the most conspicuous 
achievement of the last one hundred and fifty years, as well 
as in his love of piure art, chiefly literary, he had much in 
common with Tolstoy. They could talk with profound 
sympathy of all that related to art, and they were alike 
in their love of country life and in their relation to agri- 
culture, as well as in the fact that the great problems of life 
centred for them round their own personality rather than 
fiuround the community to which they belonged. Patriotic 
by instinct, it was no part of their philosophy to be so ; at 
least they never dreamed of that newer patriotism which 
seeks to manage the production and distribution of the 
national wealth so that every member of the community 
may have an opportunity to live in decent conditions. 


They had therefore at this period much in common ; and 
one sees by Tolstoy'^s letters how greatly they enjoyed each 
other^s society, though a time was coming when their 
friendship would wane. 

Tolstoy had a strong dislike of leaving home even for 
a few days. When it was absolutely necessary for him to 
go to Moscow he would grumble at his hfiu*d fate, and 
Behrs, when he accompanied him, noticed how town life 
depressed Tolstoy, making him fidgety and even irritable. 
When returning from a journey, or a hunting expedition, 
he would express his anxiety by exclaiming, ^ If only all ^s 
well at home!^ After he had been away from Ydsnaya 
ToLstoy never failed to give the home party full and amusing 
accounts of what he had seen and hecu'd. 

A distinguishing feature of Tolstoy, already remarked 
upon, but so strongly marked that it can hardly be insisted 
on too much, was the ardent and whole-hearted way in which 
he threw himself into whatever occupation he took up. On 
this point Prince D. D. Obol^nsky says: *I have seen 
Count L. N. Tolstoy in all phases of his creative activity. 
. . . Whatever his occupation, he did it with conviction, 
firmly believing in the value of what he was doing, and 
always fully absorbed by it. I remember him as a man 
of the world, and have met him at balls, and I remember 
a remark he once made, "See what poetry there is in 
women^s ball-dresses, what elegance, how much thought, 
how much charm even in the flowers pinned to the dresses ! ^ 
I remember him as an ardent sportsman, as a beekeeper, as 
a gardener ; I remember his enthusiasm for farming, for 
tree planting, fruit culture, horse breeding, and much else.** 

His management of property was characteristically per- 
sonal. He never took shares in any joint-stock company, 
but he bought land, bred cattle and horses of good quality, 
planted a large apple-orchard, as well as a quantity of other 
trees, and in general he acquired property he could manage 
himself, or (for he entrusted the management of his Samara 
estates to stewards) over which he had full control He has 


always been more alive to the dangers and evils of com- 
mercial companies and large engineering and industrial 
undertakings, than to the good they have achieved by 
irrigating arid lands, uniting distant realms, and lightening 
man^s toil by making iron bear some of his burdens for him. 
Tolstoy furnishes an example of the well-known fact that 
men of artistic temperament are often untidy. Though he 
acknowledges the advantages of neatness in general, he often 
remarked that it is a quality most frequently found in 
shallow natures. He himself simply could not, and there- 
fore did not try to, keep his things in order. When he 
undressed he let his clothes or boots drop where he stood ; 
and if he happened to be moving from place to place, his 
garments remained strewn about the room, and sometimes 
oif the floor. Behrs remarks : 

I noticed that to pack his things for a journey cost him great 
eflfort^ and when I accompanied him I used very willingly to do 
it for him, and thereby pleased him very much. I remember 
that once^ for some reason^ I did not at all wish to pack for 
him. He noticed this, and with characteristic delicacy did not 
ask me to, but put his things into his portmanteau himself; and 
I can assert positively that no one else, were they to try, could 
have got them into such fearful disorder as they were in, in that 

It was a peculiarity of Tolstoy's that he not only liked to 
have his own sleep out without being disturbed, but that he 
never could or would wake any one from sleep, and in cases 
of absolute necessity would ask some one else to relieve him 
of the disagreeable task. 

Behrs recounts that when they sat up late, the man-servant 
sometimes fell asleep in his chair and omitted to serve up 
the cold supper. Tolstoy would never allow him to be dis- 
turbed on these occasions, but would himself go to the 
pantry to fetch the supper, and would do this stealthily, 
and with the greatest caution, so that it became a kind of 
amusing game. He would get quite cross with Behrs if the 


latter accidentally let the plates clatter or made any other 

Many years later, alluding in my presence to this peculi- 
arity of his, Tolstoy remarked, * While a man is asleep he 
is at any rate not sinning/ 

On 4th February 1870 Tolstoy wrote to Fet : 1870 

I received your letter, dear Afan^y Afanasyevitch, on Ist 
February, but even had I received it somewhat sooner I could 
not have come. You write, ' I am alone, alone ! ' And when I 
read it I thought, What a lucky fellow — alone ! I have a wife, 
three children, and a fourth at the breast, two old aunts, a nurse, 
and two housemaids. And they are all ill together : fever, high 
temperature, weakness, headaches, and coughs. In that state 
your letter found me. They are now beginning to get better 
but out of ten people, I and my old aunt alone turn up at the 
dinner table. And since yesterday I myself am ill with my 
chest and side. There is much, very much, I want to tell you 
about. I have been reading a lot of Shakespear, Goethe, 
Poiishkin, G6gol, and Moli^re, and about all of them there 
is much I want to say to you. I do not take in a single 
magazine or newspaper this year, and I consider it very useful 
not to. 

S. A. Behrs tells us that Tolstoy ^ never read newspapers, 
and considered them useless, and when they contain false 
news, even harmful. In his humorous way he would some- 
times parody a newspaper style when speaking of domestic 
afiairs." His attitude towards journalists and critics (except 
his friend Strdhof) was rather scornful, and he was indignant 
when any one classed them even with third-rate authors. 
He considered that it is a misuse of the printing-press to 
publish so much that is unnecessary, uninteresting, and 
worst of all, inartistic. He seldom read criticisms of his 
own work. ^ His feeling towards periodicals in general had 
its source in his intense dislike of the exploitation of works 
of art He would smile contemptuously at hearing it sug- 
gested that a real artist produces his works for the sake of 


Having said this much about his characteristics and 
peculiarities, let us note the extent to which his life and 
mode of thought at this time approximated to his later 
teaching. His humane relations towards the peasants, his 
condemnation of many of the manifestations of modem 
civilisation, his simplicity in household matters and dress, 
his exemplary family life, humane educational ideals, deep 
love of sincerity and of industry (including physical labour), 
his ardent search for truth and for self-improvement, his 
gradually increasing accessibility to and regard for others, 
his undoubted love of family and his hatred of violence — 
indicate that the ideals of his later life were not very far 
from him, even before the commencement of the conversion 
told of in his Confession. 

On 17th February Tolstoy writes to Fet : 

I hoped to visit you the night of the 14th^ but could not do 
so. As I wrote you, we were all ill, — I last. I went out 
yesterday for the first time. What stopped me was pain in the 
eyes, which is increased by wind and sleeplessness. I now, to 
my great regret, have to postpone my visit to you till Lent. I 
must go to Moscow to take my aunt to my sister's, and to see 
an oculist about my eyes. 

It is a pity that one can only get to your place after passing 
a sleepless, cigarette-smoky, stuffy, railway-carriage, conversa- 
tional night You want to read me a story of cavalry life. . . . 
And I don't want to read you anything, because I am not 
writing anything ; but I very much want to talk about Shake- 
spear and Goethe and the drama in general. This whole winter 
I am occupied only with the drama ; and it happens to me, as 
it usually happens to people who till they are forty have not 
thought of a certain subject or formed any conception of it, 
and then suddenly with forty-year-old clearness turn their 
attention to this new un tasted subject — it seems to them that 
they discern in it much that is new. All winter I have enjoyed 
myself lying down, drowsing, playing b^zique, going on snow- 
shoes, skating, and most of all lying in bed (ill) while characters 
from a drama or comedy have performed for me. And they 
perform very well, it is about that I want to talk to you. In 


that^ as in everything^ you are a classic^ and understand the 
essence of the matter very deeply. I should like also to read 
Sophocles and Euripides. 

There we see Tolstoy, as always, ardently devoting his 
attention to some great subject — which happens, this time, 
to be dramatic art. So keen is he, that his mind is full 
of it whatever else he may be doing; and so vivid is his 
imagination that the characters of the plays perform 
for him whether he is standing up or lying down. How 
real a grip he obtained of the subject with very little 
theatre-going, was shown seventeen years later, when he 
wrote one of the most powerful dramas ever produced, 
and followed it up by an excellent comedy : both pieces 
being so good that they are constantly revived in 
Russian theatres, besides having achieved success in other 

At the point we have reached there was no break in the 
manner of Tolstoy's life. He continued to live quietly at 
Ydsnaya, and to concern himself chiefly with literature, 
and also with the management of his estates and the welfare 
of his family. Children continued to be bom in rapid 
succession, and with the increasing family his means also 
increased. But we have come to the middle of that tranquil 
period of sixteen years which succeeded his marriage, and 
here, while — as one would say of another man — he was 
indefatigably studying the drama; or while — as one is 
inclined to say of him — he was resting and recuperating 
before undertaking his next great work, it is convenient to 
close this chapter. 



For much information in this chapter as well as elsewhere I 
am indebted to Tolstoy himself, to the Countess S. A. Tolstoy, to 


hit sister, and particulmrlj to his daughter^ Mary Lvovna, Princess 
Obolensky^ now deceased. 

Information concerning the execution of the soldier is given in 
Prow for 1903. 

Prince D. D. Obolensky's Votpaminaniya appeared in RouMky 
Arhiv, 1896. 

See also, Qraf L, N, ToiHoy, Voipominaniya 8. P. Arbauzova : 
Moscow, 1908. 

Arbouaof was in Tolstoy's service twenty-two years. He gives his 
master an excellent character ; and though inaccurate, his naive 
chatter is very readable, and throws light on Tolstoy's character. 



Fet's poem. ^Sap flows.' Franco-Prussian war. Studies 
Greek. Effect on health. Railways. Kouin;^s cure in 
Samara. Hadji Mour^t. An expedition. Petrovsky Fair. 
'Milk-loving Scythians.' Buys estate. Molokans. Tour- 
g^nef s interest. ABC Book. House enlarged. Tolstoy as 
a goat On future lifa Re-starts school. Preparation of 
ABO Book. Astronomy. A Priwner in the Caucasus. 
Qod Sees the Truth, Ceremonial rites. Strahof and the ABC 
Book. Samara. Bull kills keeper. Teachers' Congress at 
Yasnaya. A letter in verse. Peter the Great. A suicide. 
Anna Karinina, Mouhamed Shah. Samara famine. An 
appeal Kramskoy's portrait Death of a son. Addresses 
Moscow Society of Literacy. A practical demonstration. 
Test schools. The Fatheriand Journal: On the Education 
qf the People, Mihaylovsky. ' A University in bark shoes.' 
Toula Z^mstvo Education Committee. Tourg^nef translates 
Tolstoy. Death of Aunt Tatidna. ABC Book approved. 
Wife's health. Anna Kar&nina, Death of a son. Tourgenef 
on Tolstoy's writings. Samara. Primitive ag^culture. Fete 
and horse races. A hermit Bashkir life. Education of his 
children. Exercises and playfulness. Croquet Laughter. 
' Numidian cavalry.' A daughter dies. Aunt P. I. Ushkof 
dies. Letters to Fet Nirvana and Sansara. Anna 
Karinina. ^ Summer condition.' Horse-breeding. Loss of 
Gouneba. Music. Tschaikovsky. At the Conservatoire. 
Folk-songs. Beethoven. Tolstoy on art Approach of war. 
Rupture with Katkdf. An epitaph. Professor Boutlerdf. 
The Deity. Mile. Oberlender. 6ptin Monastery. A folk- 
story teller. Turkish prisoners. Ill-health. Petersburg. 
The Decembrists. ' Martha is troubled.' Reconciliation with 
Tourgenef. Tourgenef at Yasnaya. Their relations still 


not cordud. Behrs goes to Caacacus. Pilgrims. Tchay- 
koTskj. Mihayldrskj's forecast V. I. Alex^jel 

As he grew older Tolstoy^s love of outdoor exercise tended 
more towards €tctivity serving a useful productive 
purpose, and one finds a hint of this in the following 

letter to Fet, dated 11th May 1870 : 

I received your letter, dear friend, when retoming per- 
spiring home from work, with axe and spade, and when there' 
fore I was a thousand miles from things artistic in general, 
and from our business in particular. On opening the letter 
I first read the poem and felt a sensation in my nose. On 
coming home to my wife I tried to read it to her, but could not 
do so for tears of emotion. The poem is one of those rare ones 
in which not a word could be added or subtracted or altered : 
it is a live thing, and admirable. . . . 

I have just served for a week as juryman, and found it very 
interesting and instructive. 

The next letter refers to the fact that Tolstoy did his 
best literary work in winter, when he often spent almost 
the whole day, and sometimes part of the night, at it ; that 
was the time when his ' sap flowed ' : 

2 Oct. 1870. 
It is long since we met, and in my winter condition, which 
I am now entering, I am specially glad to see you. I have been 
shooting ; but the sap is beginning to flow, and I am collecting 
it as it drips. Whether it be good or bad sap, it is pleasant to 
let it flow in these long wonderful autumn evenings. ... A 
grief has befallen me ; the mare is ill. The veterinary says her 
wind has been broken, but I cannot have broken it. 

The Franco-Prussian war, which commenced at this time, 
interested Tolstoy keenly. He had come into contact with 
the French, in the Crimea, before the Napoleonic autocracy 
had long held sway; and he had visited France in 1857 
and 1860, before the effect of that putrescent influence had 

1870-1878 881 

become fully apparent. Neither the idea of German national 
unity, nor Bismarck^s and Moltke''s ideal of efficient organi- 
sation and discipline, were things that much appealed to 
Tolstoy. So it happened that not only were all his sym- 
pathies on the side of the French, but he also felt assured 
of their triumph. His friend Prince Ourousof used to 
write letters to Eatkdfs Moscow Gazette demonstrating 
by analogies with games of chess, that the French were 
continually drawing the German armies into more and 
more desperate positions in which they must soon be quite 
destroyed. When, on the contrary, the French were utterly 
defeated, it came to him as a complete surprise ; which all 
tends to illustrate the fact that men of great intellectual 
power, living isolated on their country estates, may at times 
go very considerably wrong in their estimate of the trend 
of some of the forces that influence the world. 

During the following winter Tolstoy devoted himself to 
the study of Greek, a language he had never learned. On 
hearing of this, Fet felt so sure that Tolstoy would 1870- 
not succeed, that he announced his readiness to ^^^ 
devote his own skin for parchment for Tolstoy^s diploma 
of proficiency when the latter should have qualified himself 
to receive it. Accordingly, in December, Tolstoy wrote him 
as follows : 

I received your letter a week ago^ but have not answered 
because from morning to night I am learning Greek. I am 
writing nothing, only learning ; and to judge by information 
reaching me through Borisof^ your skin (to be used as parch- 
ment for my diploma in Greek) is in some danger. Improbable 
and astounding as it may seem^ I have read Xenophon, and can 
now read him at sight For Homer, a dictionary and some 
effort is still necessary. I eagerly await a chance of showing 
this new trick to some one. But how glad I am that God sent 
this folly upon me ! In the first place I enjoy it; and secondly, 
I have become convinced that of all that human language has 
produced truly beautiful and simply beautiful, I knew nothing 
(like all the others who know but do not understand) ; and 



thirdly, because I have ceased to write, and never more will 
write, wordy rubbish. I am guilty of having done so ; but by 
God I won't do it any more! Explain to me, for Heaven's 
sake, why no one knows Esop's fables, or even delightful 
Xenophon, not to mention Plato and Homer, whom I still have 
before me ? In so far as I can as yet judge, our translations, 
made on German models, only spoil Homer. To use a banal 
but involuntary comparison : they are like boiled and distilled 
water, while he is like water fresh from the spring, striking the 
teeth with its sun-lit sparkle : even its specks only making it 
seem still clearer and fresher. . . . You may triumph : without 
a knowledge of Greek, there is no education. But what kind 
of knowledge ? How is it to be got ? What is the use of it ? 
To this I have replies clear as daylight. 

S. A. Behrs tells us, ^ I know for a fact that he learnt 

the language and read Herodotus in three months.'* While 

in Moscow that winter, he visited Ledntief, then 

Professor of Greek at the Katkdf Lyceum, to talk 

about Greek literature. Ledntief did not wish to believe 

in the possibility of his having learnt Greek so rapidly, 

and proposed that they should read something at sight. 

It happened that they differed as to the meaning of 

three passages ; but after a little discussion the Professor 

admitted that the Counfs interpretations were right. 

Tolstoy felt the charm of the literary art of the ancient 
world, and so keen was his power of entering into the minds 
of those of whom he read, and so different to his own was 
the Greek outlook upon life, that the contradiction pro- 
duced in him a feeling of melancholy and apathy profound 
enough to affect his health. 

What clash of ideals it was that produced this result we 
may guess when we consider how from his earliest years 
he had been attracted by the Christian ideal of meek- 
ness, humility, and self-sacrifice, and how little this accords 
with the outlook on life of the ancient Greeks. In a book 
written nearly forty years later, Tolstoy tells us that * If, as 
was the case among the Greeks, religion places the meaning 

1870-1878 888 

of life in earthly happiness, in beauty and in strength, then 
art successfully transmitting the joy and energy of life, 
would be considered good art* [good, that is, in its subject- 
matter of feeling conveyed] but art transmitting the oppo- 
site feelings would be bad art.* Again in the same work he 
says that the esthetic theory he is combating, seeks to make 
it appear ' that the very best that can be done by the art 
of nations after 1900 years of Christian teaching, is to 
choose as the ideal of life the ideal held by a small, semi- 
savage, slave-holding people who lived 2000 years ago, 
imitated the nude human body extremely well, and erected 
buildings pleasant to look at.** ^ 

To wean him from his absorption in Greek literature, Jiis 
wife at first urged him to take up some fresh literary work ; 
and finally, becoming seriously alarmed for his health, in- 
duced him to go eastward for a koumys cure. He wrote to 
Fet at this time : 

10 June 1871. 

Dear Friend, — I have long not written to you^ nor been to 
see you, because I was, and still am, ill. I don't myself know 
what is the matter with me, but it seems like something bad or 
good, according to the name we give to our exit. Loss of 
strength, and a feeling that one needs nothing and wants 
nothing but quiet, which one has not got. My wife is sending 
me to Samara or Saratof for two months for a koumys cure. 
I leave for Moscow to-day, and shall there learn where I am to 

In Moscow it was decided that he should go to the part 
of Samdra he had visited before. 

Railways have always been an affliction to Tolstoy. 
Civilisation has forced them on him without his wish, and, 
as he argued in his educational articles, to the detriment of 
the peasant population. Personally, he complained of dis- 
agreeable sensations he experienced when travelling by rail, 
and compared these discomforts with the pleasure of riding 

1 What is Art ? p. 54 : Constable, London, and Funk and Wagnalls 
Co.. New York. « Ibid., p. 65. 


on horseback. He objected both to the officious politeness of 
the conductors and to the way in which the passengers sus- 
piciously shun one another. (This latter complaint is not one 
a Westerner would bring against Russians, for they appear 
to us the most friendly and sociable of fellow-travellers.) 
He used to insist on his wife always travelling first class. 
He himself went either first or third, but seldom second. 
To travel third is a more serious matter in Russia than in 
England ; and he used purposely to choose a car in which 
there were peasants, and talked to all whom he met. 

On this outward journey he went third class, by rail to 
Nizhni Novgorod and by steamer down the Vdlga to the 
town of Samdra. On the boat he took the opportunity to 
study the manners and customs of his fellow-passengers, 
natives of the Vdlga district, and displayed his remarkable 
gift of making friends with people of all kinds. Before 
he had been two days on the boat he was on the friendliest 
terms with everybody, including the sailors, among whom 
he slept each night in the fore part of the vessel. Even 
when he met reserved or surly characters, it was not long 
before he drew them out of their shells, and set them 
chatting at their ease. One secret of this success was the 
unaffected interest he took in learning about other people'^s 
lives and affairs. 

From Samdra Tolstoy went eastward for eighty miles on 
horseback, following the banks of the river Karalyk till he 
reached the village of that name. He had lived there 
in 1862, and was welcomed as an old acquaintance and 
friend by the Bashkirs, who always spoke of him as *The 
Count' The reader will remember that at the University 
Tolstoy had studied oriental languages. His knowledge of 
Tartar no doubt increased his popularity with the Bashkirs. 
He had with him a man-servant, and his brother-in-law, 
Stepan Andreyevitch Behrs, then a lad of about sixteen, 
who subsequently in his RecoUections gave many pflu*- 
ticulars about this outing. They lived, not in the * winter 
village ' of Karalyk, but about one-and-a-half miles away, in 

1870-1878 885 

a kotcMoka on the open steppe. A koichivka is a conical 
tent, made of a collapsible wooden frame covered with 
large sheets of felt. It has a small painted door, and is 
usually carpeted with soft feather grass. The one in which 
Tolstoy^s party lived, was a very large one which he hired 
from the Mullah (priest). It had formerly been used as a 
metchet (church), but had the practical disadvantage of not 
being rain-proof. There were four kotcMvki in the neigh- 
bourhood, one of which was occupied by the Mullah. 

On first fluriving at Kcu^lj^k, Tolstoy for some days felt 
very depressed and unwell. He complained that he lacked 
capacity to feel either mental or physical pleasure, and 
looked at everything * as though he were a corpse ' : a charac- 
teristic usually most foreign to him, and which in other 
people always evoked his dislike. It was, however, not long 
before he recovered his spirits and energy. 

There were other visitors at Karalj^k, who had also come 
to benefit by a koumj^s cure. They neither associated with 
the Bashkir nomads, nor adopted their customs ; but Tolstoy 
was extremely fond of the Bashkirs, associated much with 
them, and strictly followed their diet : avoiding all vegetable 
foods and restricting himself to meat and animal products. 
Dinner every day consisted chiefly of mutton eaten with 
the fingers out of wooden bowls. 

Some of the Russian visitors lived in one of the kotchivki^ 
but most of them lodged in the * winter village." Tolstoy 
soon made friends with them all, and thanks to his genial 
influence the whole place grew gay and lively. A professor of 
Greek from a Seminary for the education of priests might be 
seen trying a skipping-rope match with him ; a procureur's 
assistant discussed legal and other questions, and there was 
a young Samdra farmer who became his devoted follower. 

Among the non-Russians, one who specially interested 
Tolstoy was Hddji Mourdt, of whom he had known some- 
thing in the Caucasus, for in a letter from Tiflis to his 
brother Sergius, dated 2Srd December 1851, he had written : 
^ If you wish to show off with news from the Caucasus, you 


may recount that a certain Hddji Mourdt (second in im- 
portance to Shdmyl himself) suiTendered a few days ago to 
the Russian Government He was the leading dare-devil 
and ^ brave ^ in all Tchetchnya, but was led to commit a 
mean action.** Here Tolstoy found him living among his 
fellow Mohammedans, still very nimble and active, full of 
humour, fond of a joke, and a very strong player at draughts. 
Hddji Mourdt is the hero of a tale Tolstoy has written, but 
has put aside for posthumous publication. 

Accompanied by Behrs and two of their new acquaint- 
ances, and taking a supply of guns and presents, Tolstoy 
went for a foui* days' drive through the neighbouring villages. 
The party had splendid duck-shooting by the lakes they 
passed ; and they were entertained and treated to koumys 
by the Bashkirs at the kotcMvkas in which they rested. As 
opportunity presented itself, they made suitable acknow- 
ledgment for their entertainment by giving presents to 
their hosts. One serious drawback to the hospitality they 
enjoyed was the fact that their hosts insisted on feeding 
them with mutton and fat with their own hands, without 
the intermediacy of fork or spoon, and it was out of the 
question to insult them by refusing such well-meant though 
quite undesired attentions. 

On one occasion Tolstoy happened to admire a horse that 
had separated from its herd, and remarked to Behrs, * See 
what a beautiful specimen of milking mare that is.' When, 
an hour later, they were taking leave, their host tied this 
animal to their conveyance, thus presenting it to his visitor. 
Of course, on the return journey, Tolstoy had to make an 
equivalent present in return. 

Another incident of this stay in the Grovemment of 
Samdra, was a visit to the Petrovsky Fair, which is held once 
a year at Bouzoulouk, a small town some fifty miles from 
Karalyk. Here Russians, Bashkirs, Oural Cossacks, and 
Kirghiz mingled with one another ; and Tolstoy was soon on 
a friendly footing with them all. He would chat and laugh 
with them even when they were drunk ; but when one in 

1870-1878 887 

that condition took it into his head to embrace the Count, 
Tolstoy^s look was so stem and impressive that the fellow 
drew back his hands and let them fall,- saying, ^ No, never 
mind, it 's all right ! ' 

The following letter of 18th July 1871, to Fet, relates to 
Tolstoy^s experience of the nomadic Bashkirs : 

Thank you for your letter, dear friend ! It seems that my 
wife gave a false alarm when she packed me off for a koumys 
cure and persuaded me that I was ill. At any rate now^ after 
four weeks^ I seem to have quite recovered. And as is proper 
when one is taking a koumys cure, I am drunk and sweat from 
mom to night, and find pleasure in it. It is very good here, 
and were it not for family home-sickness, I should be quite 
happy. Were I to begin describing, I should fill a hundred 
pages with this country and my own occupations. I am read- 
ing Herodotus, who describes in detail and with great accuracy 
these same galakto-fagatious [gluttonous-for-milk] Scythians 
among whom I am living. 

I began this letter yesterday, and wrote that I was well. 
To-day my side aches again. I do not myself know in how far 
I am ill, but it is bad that I am obliged to think — and cannot 
help thinking — about my side and my chest. This is the third 
day that the heat has been terrible. In the kibitka [tent] it is as 
hot as on the shelf of a Russian bath, but I like it. The country 
here is beautiful — in its age just emerging from virginity, in its 
richness, its health, and especially in its simplicity and its un- 
pcrverted population. Here as everywhere I am looking round 
for an estate to buy. This affords me an occupation, and is the 
best excuse for getting to know the real condition of the 

After a six weeks' stay Tolstoy returned to Ydsnaya, 
travelling first class on the return journey. 

His search for an estate had been successful, and after 
persuading his wife that the investment was a sound one, 
he purchased two thousand acres on his return to Moscow. 

The change of scene, or some other influence, weakened 
Tolstoy's absorption in Greek literature ; and a huge die- 


tionaiy he had taken with him, wm uted by his lmidier»i»* 
law to pren a coUectimi of local wildflowen. 

During his wanderings on the steppe, Tidstoy met many 
Moloktos, members of a kind of Bible^Ihristian prasant 
sect They base their faith on the BiUe, reject the Greek 
Church with its traditions, priesthood, dogmas, ritual, 
sacraments, and icdns. Tlie name Molokin, or Ifilk- 
Drinker, probably arose from the fact that, not obserrii^ 
the Russian fitsts, these people do not scruple to drink milk 
in Lent. They are said to be distinguishix] by an honesty 
and industry not found among their Orthodox neig^ibours ; 
and they abstain from all intoxicants. 

It interested Tolstoy to mix with these people^ and he 
liked to discuss their beliefs, especially with a ▼eoesafak 
leader of theirs, named Agg^y. It so happened that in 
the neighbouring Tillage of PitroTka thm was a vefy 
worthy young Russian priest, who was eager to concert the 
Molokdns, and occasionally arranged debates with them 
on religious subjects. Tolstoy sometimes attended these 
debates: his object being not so mudi to oonYcrt the 
Molokdns, as to understand the points on which they 
differed from the Russo-Greek Chuix^. He also took an 
interest in the Mohammedan faith of his Bashkir friends, 
and on his return to Ydsnaya read through a Frendi trans- 
lation of the Koran. 

A few years later Tolstoy associated much with the 
representatives of various sects and faiths, being then 
profoundly interested in their beliefs; but at this time, 
his interest in such matters was only beginning to make 
itself felt. 

A letter of Tourg&iefs written at this period, indicates 
how little he allowed his quarrel with Tolstoy the man, to 
warp his appreciation of Tolstoy the artist. Writing to 
Fet on «nd July 1871, he says : 

Your letter again grieves me — I refer to what you write 
about L. Tolstoy. I have great fears on his account, for two 
of his brothers died of consumption^ and I am veiy glad he is 

1870-1878 889 

taking a koum^s cure^ in the reality and efficacy of which I 
have faith. L. Tolstoy is the only hope of our orphaned litera- 
ture ; he cannot and must not vanish from the face of the earth 
as prematurely as his predecessors : Poiishkin, L^rmontof and 

Again in November, writing from Pcuns, he says : 

I am very glad that Tolstoy's health is now satisfactory and 
that he is at work. Whatever he does will be good, if only he 
does not himself mutilate his own handiwork. Philosophy^ 
which he hates, has revenged herself on him in a strange way : 
she has infected him, and the enemy of rationalising has 
plunged head over ears into rationalisation ! But perhaps all 
thai has fallen away from him by now, and left only the pure 
and powerful artist. 

On returning home from Samira improved in health, 
Tolstoy turned his thoughts once more to matters educa- 
tional : especially to the crying want of good primers for 
those beginning to read. We have seen how strongly, in 
186S, he had felt the need of well- written books simple 
enough for beginners and peasant readers, and how he 
resented the monopolisation of knowledge by the cultured 
classes entrenched behind barriers of pedantry. We have 
seen, too, how under the influence of Homer he swore he 
would no more write * wordy rubbish ^ ; and the time had 
now come for this feeling to bear fruit. The task to which 
he devoted his powers at their zenith, was the produc- 
tion of an ABC Book for beginners, which was to be as 
simple, sincere and perfect in form and in subject-matter 
as possible. 

We know from the writings of the American Consul, Mr. 
Eugene Schuyler, who visited Tolstoy in 1868, and at his 
request obtained for him a collection of American school 
primers, that Tolstoy was even then meditating a work of 
the kind to which he now devoted himself ardently for 
a whole year. By September he was hard at work, the 
Countess as usual acting as his amanuensis. 


Of her we hear that in an impulsive, kindhearted way, she 
often rendered assistance to the poor, not merely among the 
Y^naya Polydna pecisants, but to others from a distance as 
well ; and that the neighbouring peasants thought well of 

The increase in the Tolstoy family was met this year by 
a considerable enlargement of their domicile. By way of a 
house-warming to celebrate the completion of the building, 
a masquerade was arranged at Christmas, at which Tolstoy 
evoked great enthusiasm by appearing as a goat. 

About this time, at the age of sixteen, Behrs and a school 
friend of his became sorely troubled as to the state of their 
souls, and thought of entering a monastery. This is what 
he tells us of Tolstoy^s relation to the matter : 

His attitude towards my inclination was a most cautious one. 
I often went to him with my doubts and questions, but he 
always managed to avoid expressing his opinion, knowing how 
very great an influence it would have with me. He left it to 
me to work out my own convictions. Once, however^ he spoke 
out with sufficient plainness. We were riding past the village 
church where his parents lie buried. Two horses were grasing 
in the churchyard. We had been talking over the only subject 
that then interested me. 

^ How can a man live in peace/ I asked, ^ so long as he has 
not solved the question of a future life ? ' 

' You see those two horses grazing there,' he answered ; ' are 
they not laying up for a future life ? * 

' But I am speaking of our spiritual, not our earthly life.' 

* Indeed ? Well, about that, I neither know nor can know 

Immediately after New Year he re-started his school ; and 
the children (who often numbered thirty to thirty-five) met, 
not as formerly in another building, but in the hall 
of the Tolstoys'* enlarged house. In the mornings the 
Countess taught her own children, and in the afternoon she, 
her husband, and even seven-year-old Tanya and eight-year- 
old Sergius, taught the peasant children, who came only 

1870-1878 841 

then, but yet made satisfactory progress, being stimulated 
by the personal interest the Tolstoys took in them, by the 
pedagogic genius of the Count, and by a perception that 
education is a rare and valuable luxury, which seldom comes 
within the reach of Russian peasants. 

In the ABC Book Tolstoy gives several autobiographical 
stories of how he learned to ride, and of his dogs Milton 
and Boulka. Easy as these are, they are admirably written, 
and combine brevity and simplicity with sincerity ; though 
their sincerity lies not in telling the facts just as they 
occurred, but in the truth of the feeling conveyed to the 
reader. Besides these and other stories, popular historical 
sketches, and a number of translations and adaptations 
from Esop's Fables and from Indian, Hebrew and Arabic 
sources, the work contains some popular ballads or folk- 
stories in verse. To get these poems as perfect as possible, 
he studied and collated all the versions of them he could 

The section on Arithmetic gave him an immense amount 
of work, for he would not content himself with the usual 
explanations of the various operations, but devised explana- 
tions of his own. 

The book contains some elementary natural science, and 
for the preparation of this, Tolstoy, besides examining all 
sorts of text-books, consulted specialists on the various 
subjects, and himself carefully performed most of the 
experiments he described. 

To select the readings in the Church-Slavonic language, 
he perused the monkish chronicles and the Lives of the 

Intending to include some readings on astronomy, he 
took up that study himself, and became so interested in it 
that he sometimes sat up all night examining the stars. 

When the news spread that Tolstoy was writing stories 
for his ABC Book, the magazine editors besieged him with 
demands, and the first bits of the book to see the light were 
A Prisoner in the CauauuSj which appeared in one of the 


montUiet in February, and God Seei the TnUh^ whidi came 
out in another monthly in March. 

Owing to some mismanagement, Tolstoy received nothing 
for the periodical rights of either of these stories, which in 
What is Art f he names as the best of all his works. Tliej 
(as well as The Bear Huni^ also from the ABC Book) are 
given in English in TwenJ^^ihree TaJee^ previously referred 
to. In rendering them, I did my best to retain the brief 
simplicity of the originals ; but where Russian customs were 
alluded to, some of that simplicily was inevitably lost 

With what pleasure Tolstoy looks back to this part of his 
lifers work, was indicated by a remark he made to me in 190S. 
Speaking of the popularity of A Prisoner in ihe Ckmuums 
for public readings to the peasants, he added with erident 
satisfacticm, that when A Prisoner in the Caucasus is now 
mentioned, it is always taken for granted that it is his little 
story, and not Potbhkin^s fiunous poem of the same name, 
that is referred to. 

Since their first q)pearance, these two stories have sold 
by hundreds of thousands in separate editions at three to 
ten copecks (about a penny or twopence) each, besides 
appearing in the Readers and among Tolstoy^s collected 

In the following letter to Fet we get a vivid glimpse of 
the thoughts on lifers deepest problems, which were before 
long to fill Tolstoy's mind completely : 

30 Jan, 1872. 

It is some days since I received your kind but sad letter, and 
not till to-day do I settle down to answer it. 

It is a sad letter, for you write that Tdtchef is dying, and 
that there is a rumour that Tourg^nef is dead ; and about your- 
self you say the machine is wearing out and you want quietly 
to think of Nirvana. Please let me know quickly whether this 
is a false alarm. I hope it is^ and that, in the absence of MAiya 
Petr6vna, you have taken slight symptoms for a return of your 
terrible illness. 

In Nirvana there is nothing to laugh at ; still less is there 

1870-1878 848 

cause for anger. We all (I^ at least) feel that it is much more 
interesting than life ; but I agree that however much I may 
think about it, I can think of nothing else than that Nirvana is 
nothingness. I only stand up for one thing : religious reverence 
— awe of that Nirvana. 

There is^ at any rate^ nothing more important than it 
What do I mean by religious reverence? I mean this: I 
lately went to see my brother, and a child of his had died and 
was being buried. The priests were there^ and a small pink 
coffin, and everything as it should be. My brother and I in- 
voluntarily confessed to one another that we felt something 
like repulsion towards ceremonial rites. But afterwards I 
thought, ' Well, but what should my brother do to remove the 
putrefying body of the child from the house ? How is one to 
finish the matter decently } ' There is no better way (at least, I 
could devise none) than to do it with a requiem and incense. 
How is it to be when we grow weak and die ? Is nature to 
take her course, are we to . . . and nothing else ? That would 
not be well. One wishes fully to express the gravity and im- 
portance, the solemnity and religious awe of that occurrence, 
the most important in every man's life. And I also can devise 
nothing more seemly for people of all ages and all degrees of 
development, than a religious observance. For me at least 
those Slavonic words evoke quite the same metaphysical ecstasy 
as one experiences when one thinks of Nirvana. Religion is 
wonderful, in that she has for so many ages rendered to so 
many millions of people these same services — the greatest any- 
thing human can render in this matter. With such a task, how 
can she be logical ? Yes — there is something in her. Only to 
you do I allow m3rself to write such letters ; but I wished to 
write, and I feel sad, especially after your letter. 
Please write soon about your health. — Your 

Leo Tolstoy. 

I am terribly dispirited. The work I have begun is fearfully 
hard, there is no end to the preparatory study necessaiy. The 
plan of the work is ever increasing, and my strength, I feel, 
grows less and less. One day I am well, and three days I 
am ill. 


The work here referred to as * fearfully hard * was a study 
of the reign of Peter the Great, in preparation for a novel 
treating of that period. 

On 20th February he again wrote to Fet : 

I may not correspond with ray friends for years at a time^ 
but when my friend is in trouble^ it is terribly shameful and 
painful not to know of it . . . Now^ being in Moscow, I 
wished to call on the B6tkins to hear about you, but I fell ill 
myself, took to my bed, and it was all I could do to get home. 
Now I am better. At home all is well ; but you will not 
recognise our house : we have been using the new extension 
all winter. Another novelty is that I have again started a 
school. My wife and children and I all teach and are all 
contented. I have finished my ABC Book and am printing 
it. . . . 

The next letter shows that his hope that he had finished 
the ABC Book was premature : 

16 March 1872. 

How I wish to see you ; but I cannot come, I am still ill. 
. . . My ABC Book gives me no peace for any other occupa- 
tion. The printing advances on the feet of a tortoise, and the 
deuce knows when it will be finished, and I am still adding and 
omitting and altering. What will come of it I know not; 
but I have put my whole soul into it. 

In May 1872 the Countess gave birth to another boy, 
who was christened Peter. 

The Moscow firm who were printing the book for Tolstoy 
were not able to give him satisfaction. Not only was the 
printing a matter of difficulty owing to the variety of type 
required for a school-book of this kind, but Tolstoy, in 
a^»;ord with his invariable practice, revised the work time 
after time while it was going through the press. At last, in 
May, he wrote to his trusty friend and admirer, N. StrAhof, 
saying that after four months'" labour the printing was 
^ not only not finished, but had not even begun,'' and begging 
Strdhof to have the book printed in Petersburg, and to take 
on himself (for ample payment) the whole task of revising the 

1870-1878 845 

proofs. After some correspondence matters were arranged 

Tolstoy explained to Strdhof that he wanted to make a 
profit on the book if possible. As a rule, all Tolstoy^s later 
teaching seems to grow out of his experience of life ; but 
it would be hard for any one to work more conscientiously 
than Tolstoy laboured over this book, and yet in later life 
he speaks as though any admixture of mercenary motives is 
sure to be fatal to good literary work. We here seem, there- 
fore, to come upon an exception to that rule. 

Strdhof s assistance enabled Tolstoy (though he continued 
to give most careful instructions with regard to the treat- 
ment of the various sections of the book) to get a much 
needed change; and after having as usual worked during 
the winter and spring up to the very limit of his strength, 
he went for a short visit to his Samdra estate, where 
he arranged about building, and about breaking up the 
virgin soil. A peasant from Ydsnaya village was appointed 
steward of the new estate, and was instructed to see to the 
building of the house there. Being far away from home 
Tolstoy was anxious about his ABC Book; so he cut 
short his stay, and returned to Ydsnaya before the end of 
July. There he learned that a fine young bull of his had 
gored its keeper to death. The unpleasantness of such an 
occurrence and of the legal investigation consequent on the 
man's death, was greatly increased by the fact that the 
Investigating Magistrate, an incompetent and arrogant young 
official, wrongly held Tolstoy responsible for * careless hold- 
ing of cattle," and, besides commencing criminal proceedings 
against him, obliged him to give a written undertaking 
not to leave Ydsnaya. Prince D. D. Obol^nsky tells how 
Tolstoy arrived one day at a meet at the Prince's estate of 
Schahovskdy (twenty-four miles from Ydsnaya) late and 
much upset, and told of an examination he had that morn- 
ing undergone at the hands of the Investigating Magistrate, 
whose duties included those of Coroner. ^ Being an excit- 
able man,^ says Obolensky, ^ Tolstoy was extremely indignant 


at the Magistrate's conduct, and told how the latter had kept 
a Ydsno-Polydna peasant in prison for a year-and-a-half on 
suspicion of having stolen a cow, which then turned out to 
have been stolen by some one else. ^^He will confine me 
for a year,'" added Tolstoy. ^' It is absurd, and shows how 
utterly arbitrary these gentlemen are. I shall sell all I 
have in Russia and go to England, where every man'^s 
person is respected. Here every police-officer, if one does 
not grovel at his feet, can play one the dirtiest tricks ! "^ ' 

P. F. Samdrin, who had also come to the hunt, opposed 
Tolstoy with animation, arguing that the death or even 
the mutilation of a man, was so serious a matter that it 
could not be left without judicial investigation. After long 
argument Samdrin more or less convinced Tolstoy, and the 
latter before retiring to rest remarked to Obol^nsky, * What 
a wonderful power of calming people Samdrin has ! ' 

The judicial proceedings dragged on for more than a 
month, and it was not till late in September that Tolstoy 
was again free to take a journey to Moscow. The pro- 
ceedings, first against him and then against his steward, 
were abandoned ; but not before the newspapers had taken 
the matter up and made a fuss about it. 

At last, in November, the ABC Book was published. It 
sold slowly, and was attacked by some of the papers. Tol- 
stoy however was not discouraged, but held to his belief that 
(as he expressed it to Strdhof) he had ' erected a monument' 
— a conviction amply justified by the ultimate success of the 
work. He had indeed produced a reading-book far superior 
to anything that had previously existed in Russia, and that 
is probably unmatched in any language. With certain 
modifications to be mentioned later on, it continues to 
circulate throughout Russia to the present day. 

In connection with his other eftbrts to popularise his 
system of instruction, Tolstoy, in October 1872, invited 
a dozen teachers from neighbouring schools to visit him for 
a week at Yasnaya. They were accommodated in his second 
house (called, as is customary in Russian when speaking 

1870-1878 847 

of a subsidiary residence, Hhe wing''); and a number of 
illiterate boys were collected from viUages within reach, 
to be taught on Tolstoy'^s lines. He also formed a project 
of establishing a ^ University in bark shoes ' [the country 
peasants wear bark shoes] or in other words, a training col- 
lege in which peasants could become teachers without ceas- 
ing to be peasants. This plan occupied his attention, off 
and on, for some years ; but (owing to causes which will be 
related later) never came to fruition. 

In December Tourgenef writes from Paris, to Fet : 

I got a copy of L. Tolstoy's ABC^ but except the beautiful 
story^ A Prisoner in the Caucatus, I did not find anything inter- 
esting in it. And the price is absurdly dear for a work of 
that kind. 

The price of the first edition of SOOO copies of the ABC 
was Rs. S (about 5s. 6d.) for four paper-covered books. 
Tourgenef probably had no idea of the immense labour, 
or of the typographical difficulties, involved in its pro- 

About this time Fet sent Tolstoy a letter in rhyme, to 
which the latter replied as follows : 

12 November 1872. 

The causeless shame felt by the onion 

Before the sweetly-scented rose. 
My dearest Fet, I should be feeling. 

Were I to answer you in prose. 

And yet in maiden verse replying, 

By sad misgivings I 'm beset : 
The when and where, yourself please settle — 

But come and visit us, dear Fet. 

Tho' drought may parch the rye and barley. 

Yet still I shall not feel upset 
If I but spend a day enjoying 

Your conversation, dearest Fet ! 


Too apt we often are to worry ; 

O'er future ills let us not fret : 
Sufficient for the day^ its evil — 

It 's best to think so^ dearest Fet ! 

Joking apart, write quickly and let me know when to send 
horses to the station to meet you. I want to see you terribly. 

Having at last got his ABC off his hands, Tolstoy re> 
sumed his preliminary labours for a large novel, which was 
to deal with the period of Peter the Great. On 19th Nov- 
ember 1872 the Countess wrote to her brother : 

Our life just now is very, very serious. All day we are 
occupied. Leo sits surrounded by a pile of portraits, pictures 
and books^ engrossed in reading, marking passages and taking 
notes. In the evenings when the children have gone to bed, 
he tells me his plans, and what he means to write. At times 
he is quite discouraged, falls into despair, and thinks nothing 
will ever come of it. At other times he is on the point of 
setting ardently to work ; but as yet I cannot say he has actually 
written anything, he is still preparing. 

A month later she wrote : 

As usual we are all of us very busy. The winter is the working 
time for us proprietors, just as much as summer is for the 
peasants. Leo is still reading historical books of the time of 
Peter the Great, and is much interested in them. He notes 
down the characters of various people, their traits, as well as the 
way of life of the boyars and the peasants, and Peter s activity. 
He does not yet know what will come of it all, but it seems 
to me we shall have another prose poem like War and Peace \ 
but of the time of Peter the Great. 

A few months later he definitely abandoned the project. 
His opinion of Peter the Great ran directly counter to 
the popular one, and he felt out of sympathy with the whole 
epoch. He declared there was nothing great about 
the personality or activity of Peter, whose qualities 
were all bad. His so-called reforms, far from aiming at the 
welfare of the people, aimed simply at his own personal 

1870-1878 849 

advantage. He founded Petersburg because the boyars, 
who were influential and consequently dangerous to him, 
disapproved of the changes he made, and because he wished 
to be free to follow an immoral mode of life. The changes 
and reforms he introduced were borrowed from Saxony, 
where the laws were most cruel, and the morals most 
dissolute — all of which particularly pleased him. This, 
Tolstoy holds, explains Peter^s friendship with the Elector 
of Saxony, who was among the most immoral of rulers. 
He also considers that Peter^s intimacy with the pieman 
Menshikof and with the Swiss deserter Lefort, is ex- 
plained by the contempt in which Peter was held by 
all the boyars, among whom he could not find men willing 
to share his dissolute life. Most of all, Tolstoy was 
revolted by the murder of Peter's son Alexis, in which 
crime Tolstoy's own ancestor had played a prominent 

Almost simultaneously with the abandonment of the pro- 
ject to which he had devoted so much time and attention, 
Tolstoy, without any special preparation, began to write his 
second great novel, Anna Kar&nina. 

The year before, a lady named Anna who lived with 
Bibikof, a neighbouring squire mentioned on a previous 
page, had committed suicide by throwing herself under 
a train, out of jealousy of Bibikof 's attentions to their 
governess. Tolstoy knew all the details of the afiair, and 
had been present at the post-mortem. This supplied him 
with a theme; but it was not till March 1873, and then as 
it were by accident, that he actually began to write the 
book. One day a volume of Poushkin happened to be lying 
open at the commencement of A Fragment^ which begins 
with the words, *The guests had arrived at the country 
house.' Tolstoy, noticing this, remarked to those present 
that these words, plunging at once into the midst of things, 
are a model of how a story should begin. Some one then 
laughingly suggested that he should begin a novel in that 
way ; and Tolstoy at once started on Anna Karinina^ the 


Koond tentenoe, and fint oairmtiTe lentenoe, of whidi ii, 
* All was in confunon in the ObldnskyB^ houie.^ 

In May Tolstoy and his whole fiunily went far a thrae 
months* visit to Sam&ia, where he had recently purchaafd 
some more land. 

This summer he hired a Bashkir named Moohamed Shah, 
who owned and brought with him a heid of millriiig maxes. 
This Mouhamed Shah, or RomAnovitch as he was called in 
Russian, was polite, punctual, and dignified He had a 
workman to drive the herd, and a wife (who retired bdiind 
a curtain in his JcoickMca when visitors came to see him) to 
wait upon him. In subsequent jrears this worthy man 
repeatedly resumed his engagement with the Tolstoys. 

This was the first year l^e whole estate had been pkmgfaed 
up and sown. It was fortunate for the district that some 
one who had the ear of the public, happened to be there; 
for the crops in the whole neighbourhood fidled utterly, and 
a fiunine ensued. So out-of-the-world were the people and 
so cut off from civilisation, that they might have soffiered 
and died without the rest of Russia hearing anything about 
it, had not Tolstoy been at hand to make their plight known 
in good time by an appeal for help, which the Countess 
prompted him to draw up, and which appeared on 17th 
August, in Katkdf 8 paper, the Moscow Gcuseite. 

In this article on the Samdra Famine, Tolstoy describes 
how the complete failure of the harvest, following as it did 
on two previous poor harvests, had brought nearly nine- 
tenths of the population to destitution and hunger. 

To ascertain the real state of things Tolstoy took an 
inventory at every tenth house in the village of Gravrilovka 
— ^the one nearest his estate; and of the twenty-three 
families so examined, all but one were found to be in 
debt, and none of them knew how they were to get 
through the winter. Most of the men hcid left home to 
look for work, but the harvest being bad everywhere, and 
so many people being in search of work, the price of labour 
had fallen to one-eighth of what it had previously been. 

1870-1878 851 

Tolstoy visited several of the neighbouring villages 
and found a similar state of things everywhere. Together 
with his article, he sent Rs. 100 (then equal to about £14i) 
as a first subscription to a Famine Fund. This was only 
a small part of what he spent in relief of the impoverished 
peasants, for when Prougdvin (well known for his valuable 
descriptions of Russian sects) visited the district in 1881, 
many of the inhabitants spoke to him of Tolstoy^s personal 
kindness to the afflicted, and of his gifts of com and money 
during the famine. 

The subscription proved a success. At Tolstoy^s request 
the Countess A. A. Tolstoy brought the matter to the 
attention of the Empress, who was one of the first to 
contribute. Her example was largely followed, and alto- 
gether, in money and in kind, something like Rs. 2,000,000, 
or about de270,000, was contributed during 1873-4. Within 
a year or two, good harvests again completely changed the 
whole appearance of the district. 

This was the first, but neither the last nor the worst, of 
the famines in which Tolstoy rendered help. 

Before the end of August 1873 he was back at Ydsnaya, 
and wrote to Fet : 

On the 22nd we arrived safely from Samdra. ... In spite of 
the droughty the losses and the inconvenience^ we all^ even my 
wife^ are satisfied with our visit, and yet more satisfied to be 
back in the old frame of our life ; and we are now taking up 
our respective labours. . . . 

A month later he writes again, referring to Kramskdy^s 

portrait of himself, a photogravure of which forms the 

frontispiece of this volume, and shows the blouse which he 

had already at this time taken to wearing when at home, 

instead of a tailor-made coat. 

25 September 1873. 

I am beginning to write. . . . The children are learning, my 
wife is busy and teaches. Every day for a week Kramsk6y has 
been painting my portrait for Tretyak6f s Gallery, and I sit and 
chat with him, and try to convert him from the Petersburg 


faith to the faith of the baptized. I agreed to this, because 
Kramsk6y came personally, and oflTered to paint a second 
portrait for us very cheaply, and because ray wife persuaded 

Up to this time Tolstoy, sensitive about his personal 
appearance, and instinctively disliking any personal adver- 
tisement, had always had an objection to having his portrait 
painted ; and if he ever allowed himself to be photographed, 
was careful to have the negative destroyed that copies might 
not be multiplied. This prejudice he abandoned in later 
life ; and after S^ramskdy had broken the ice, portxaits 
and photographs of Tolstoy became more and more 

Kramskdy^s acquaintance with the Tolstoys came about 
in this way. He was commissioned to paint a portrait of 
the great novelist, for the collection of famous Russians in 
Tretyakdfs picture gallery in Moscow ; but sought in vain 
in that town for his photograph, and was too modest to ask 
Tolstoy (who, he knew, was living a secluded life at Yds- 
naya) to give him sittings. He therefore hired a dMcha^ 
some three miles from Ydsnaya, with the intention of 
painting Tolstoy, who often rode past on horseback. His 
intention, however, became known, and the Tolstoys at 
once sent him a friendly invitation to visit them. Of the 
two very similar portraits of Tolstoy which Eramskoy 
painted, one has remained at Ydsnaya. 

Before Tolstoy's next letter to Fet, the angel of death 
had crossed the threshold of his house for the first time in 
his married life. On 11th November he wrote : 

We are in trouble : Peter, otir youngest, fell ill with croup 
and died in two days. It is the first death in our family in 
eleven years, and my wife feels it very deeply. One may 
console oneself by saying that if one had to choose one of our 
eight, this loss is lighter than any other would have been ; but 
the heart, especially the mother s heart — that wonderful and 
highest manifestation of Divinity on earth — does not reason, 
and my wife grieves. 

1870-1878 858 

During the whole of 1874 Tolstoy made strenuous efforts 
to get his system of education more generally adopted. On 
16th January, overcoming his dislike of speaking in ^^. 
public, he addressed the Moscow Society of Literacy 
on the subject of the best way to teach children to read. 
The details of his argument need not here detain us, as it 
will fall to the lot of few of my readers to teach Russian 
children to read Russian ; but briefly, the German Latdier- 
methode had been adopted by Russian pedagogues in a 
way that Tolstoy considered arbitrary and pedantic, and his 
appeal was from the professional pedagogues to the common 
sense and experience of the people. 

The large hall in which the meeting took place was 
crowded. The President of the Society, Mr. Shatilof, 
invited Tolstoy to open the debate, but Tolstoy preferred 
to reply to what questions and remarks the other speakers 
might put. In the course of the animated proceedings, 
in which several men well known in the Russian educa- 
tional world took part, the discussion widened out till it 
covered the question of the whole direction of elementary 
education ; and Tolstoy, from the standpoint of his belief 
that it is harmful to force upon the people a culture they 
do not demand and are not prepared for — and much of 
which, though considered by us to be science, may yet turn 
out to be no better than the alchemy and astrology of the 
Middle Ages — denounced the education forced upon the 
children in elementary schools, and declared that this should 
be confined in the first place to teaching the Russian lan- 
guage and arithmetic, leaving natural science and history 
alone. To demonstrate the advantage of his way of teaching 
reading, Tolstoy offered to give a practical demonstration 
in one of the schools attached to some of the Moscow mills. 
Accordingly it was arranged that this should take place 
the next day and the day cdfter, at the mills owned by Mr. 
Ganeshin, on the Devftche Pdlye just outside Moscow. On 
the morrow Tolstoy was unwell, and did not appear ; but he 
gave his demonstration on the evening of the following day, 


with the result that, on the suggestion of Mr. Shatilof, the 
Society of Literacy decided to start two temporary schools 
for the express purpose of testing the rival methods during 
a period of seven weeks. The one school was taught by 
Mr. M. E. Protopopof, an expert in the Lautiermethodtj 
while in the other school Tolstoy's method was taught by 
Mr. P. V. Mordzof. After seven weeks the children were 
examined by a Committee, which had to report to the 
Society at a meeting held on 13th ApriL The members of 
the Committee however could not agree, and handed in 
separate and contradictory reports. At the meeting of the 
Society there was again a great divergence of opinion ; and 
Tolstoy, who considered that the test had not been made 
under proper conditions (most of the pupils being too young, 
and the continual presence of visitors preventing the teacher 
Arom holding the children^'s attention), but that nevertheless 
his method had shown its superiority, decided to appeal to 
a wider public, and did so in the form of a letter addressed 
to Mr. Shatilof. 

A full account of what happened firom the time the 
dispute passed into the press, has been given by that power- 
ful and popular critic and essay est, N. K. Mihaylovsky, 
who was at this time a colleague of Nekrdsof. In 1866 the 
Contemporary had been prohibited, as a punishment for its 
too Liberal tendencies. In 1868 Nekrdsof and Saltykdf 
(Stchedrin) had taken over the management of the Father- 
land Journal. Tolstoy, who had long dropped out of touch 
with Neknisof, now addressed to him a request that the 
Fatherland Journal should take a hand in his fight with the 
pedagogic specialists, and should interest a wider public in 
his educational refonns. As an inducement, he held out a 
prospect (never fulfilled) that he would contribute some of 
his works of fiction to their magazine. The outcome of his 
correspondence with Neknisof was, that though the whole 
question of elementary education was somewhat foreign to 
a literary magazine such as the Fatherland Journal^ a long 
article by Tolstoy (his letter to Shatilof) appeared in the 

1870-1878 855 

September number, under the title of On the Edtication of 
the People. 

ToIstoy^s educational articles in 186S, when he issued 
them in his own magazine, had fallen quite flat and 
attracted no attention, but this article, by the author of 
War and Peace^ in a leading Petersburg magazine, though 
expressing very similar views, received very much attention, 
and was criticised, favourably or adversely, in a large number 
of other publications. Though his views were only adopted 
to a small extent, yet the severe shock which he administered 
to the professional pedagogues who looked on school-chil- 
dren as * a flock existing for the sake of its shepherds,^ had 
a most healthy influence, and that it did not pass without 
some immediate practical eflect is indicated by the rejection 
from the Moscow Teachers^ Seminary of one of the text- 
books Tolstoy attacked most fiercely. 

Following on the storm raised in the press by Tolstoy's 
article, Mihaylovsky, in the Fatherland Journal for January 
1875, published a long article entitled Jn Outsider's NoteSj 
in which he took Tolstoy^s part against the pedagogues, 
and said : * Though I am one of the profane in philosophy 
and pedagogics, and am writing simply a.feuiUeton^ I never- 
theless advise my readers to peruse {hisfeuiUeton with great 
attention, not for my sake, but for Tolstoy's, and for the 
sake of those fine shades of thought on which I do but 

Before this, however, Tolstoy had made another attempt 
to improve the state of elementary education, by promoting 
the establishment of that * University in bark shoes' to 
which I have already alluded. 

He had found some of the boys in the Ydsno-Polydna 
school anxious to continue their studies after finishing the 
school course ; and an experiment in teaching these lads 
algebra had been highly successful. 

In his last article on Education, Tolstoy had pointed out 
that a great obstacle to the spread of efficient elementary 
instruction lay in the fact that the peasants could not 


afford the salaries (extremely modest as these sound to 
Western ears) demanded by Russian teachers of the non- 
peasant classes. It was therefore quite natural that he 
should now devise a scheme for preparing teachers from 
among the peasants themselves ; and he drew up a project 
for a training college to be established at Ydsnaya, under 
his own direction and control. 

In the summer of this year Tolstoy paid a brief visit to 
his Samdra estate to look after its management; and he 
took his son Sergius with him. 

On 20th November 1874 the Countess wrote to her 
brother : 

Our usual serious winter work is now in full swing. Leo 
is quite taken up with popular education^ schools, and colleges 
for teachers, where teachers for the peasants' schools are to be 
trained. All this keeps him busy from morning till night. 
I have my doubts about all this. I am sorry his strength should 
be spent on these things instead of on writing a novel ; and I 
don't know in how far it will be of use, since all this activity 
will extend only to one small comer of Russia. 

D. F. Samdrin, the Marshal of the Nobility of Toula 
Grovernment, backed Tolstoy cordially, and pointed out that 
the Zemstvo (County Council) had a sum of Rs. 30,000 
available for educational purposes, and that this might be 
devoted to starting a teachers' Training College. To attain 
this end Tolstoy, who heretofore had always refused to 
stand for election, consented to enter the Zemstvo, and after 
being returned to that body, was unanimously chosen to 
serve on its Education Committee. 

He presented a report in the sense indicated above, which 
was at first favourably discussed ; but unfortunately one of 
the oldest members rose, and alluding to the fact that a 
collection was being made all over Russia for a monument 
to Catherine the Great, and that it was the centenary of the 
decree by which she had created the Government of Toula, 
proposed that the money should be devoted to the monu- 
ment of their Benefactress. This loyal sentiment met with 

1870-1878 857 

approval, and though Tolstoy did not at once abandon his 
plan, the means to carry it out were never forthcoming, and 
we do not hear much more of it. 

If one did not know how stupidly reactionary the govern- 
ing classes of Russia were at this period, it would seem 
extraordinary that the central and the local authorities 
alike should have so constantly balked and hindered Tolstoy^s 
disinterested projects: forbidding the publication of his 
newspaper for soldiers, mutilating his stories, sending 
gendarmes to search his schools, looking askance at his 
school magazine, and defeating his project for a Training 
College. Can it be wondered at, that he came more and 
more to identify Government with all that is most opposed 
to enlightenment ? We know that similar causes were, at 
that very time, driving men and women of a younger gene- 
ration to undertake dangerous propaganda work, in more 
or less definite opposition to the existing order of society, 
among factory workmen and country peasants. 

His devotion to educational matters did not entirely 
supersede, though no doubt it delayed, his activity as a 
novelist. In the spring of 1874 he had taken the com- 
mencement of Anna Karinina to Moscow, but for some 
reason none of it appeared that year. 

Tourgenef, in collaboration with Madame Viardot, was at 
this time translating some of Tolstoy's best stories into 
French. Writing to Fet in March 1874, he says : 

The season is now almost over^ but all the same I will try to 
place his [Tolstoy's] Three Deaths in the Revue des Deux Mondes 
or in the Temps, and in autumn I will without £eu1 get out 
The Cossacks. The more often I read that story^ the more 
convinced I am that it is the chefd'omvre of Tolstoy and of all 
Russian narrative literature. 

Meanwhile life and death pursued their course. In April 
a son was bom and christened Nicholas; and before long, 
death, having a few months previously taken the youngest, 
returned to claim the oldest members of the household. 


The first of them to go was his dearly -loved Aunty Tati^na 
Alexdndrovna, to whose good influence through life he owed 
so much. She died on 20th June, and next year his other 
aunt followed her. 

Tolstoy never refers to his aunt Tatidna without letting 
us see how he cherishes her memory. Here for instance are 
one or two of his notes relating to her : 

When already beginning to grow feeble^ having waited her 
opportunity^ one day when I was in her room she said to us^ 
turning away (I saw that she was ready to cry), ' Look here, 
mef chers amis, my room is a good one and you will want it. If 
I die in it/ and her voice trembled, ^ the recollection will be 
unpleasant to you ; so move me somewhere else, that I may 
not die here.' Such she always was, from my earliest child- 
hood, before I was able to understand her goodness. 

Again referring to her death, and to the love for his 
father which had played so large a part in her life, he adds : 

She died peacefully, gradually falling asleep; and died as 
she desired, not in the room that had been hers, lest it should 
be spoilt for us. 

She died recognising hardly any one. But me she always 
recognised, smiling and brightening up as an electric lamp does 
when one touches the knob^ and sometimes she moved her lips 
trying to pronounce the name Nicholas : thus in death com- 
pletely and inseparably uniting me with him she had loved all 
her life. 

The opinion the peasants had of her, was shown by the 
fact that when her coffin was earned through the village, 
there was not one hut out of the sixty in Yasnaya PolyAna, 
from which the people did not come out asking to have the 
procession stopped and a requiem sung for her soul. * She 
was a kind lady and did nobody any harm," said they. 
Tolstoy adds : 

On that account they loved her, and loved her very much. 
Lao-Tsze says things are valuable for what is not in them. So 

1870-1878 859 

it is with a life. It is most valuable if there is nothing bad in 
it ; and in the life of TatiAna Alexdndrovna there was nothing 

Except in the case of his brother Nicholas, Tolstoy has 
usually not been greatly upset even by the deaths of those 
near and dear to him. The following letter to Fet shows 
how he took Tatidna's death : 

24 Jv!M 1874. 

Two days ago we buried Aunt Tatidna Alexdndrovna. She 
died slowly and gradually^ and I had grown accustomed to the 
process ; yet her death was, as the death of a near and dear 
one always is, a quite new, isolated and unexpectedly-stirring 
event The others are well, and our house is full. The 
delightful heat, the bathing and the fruit have brought me to 
the state of mental laziness I love, with only enough mental 
life remaining to enable me to remember my friends and think 
of them. 

The next letter, dated the 22nd October, tells its own tale: 

Dear AfanAsy AfanAsyrvitch, — I have planned to buy, and 
must buy, some land at Nik61sky, and for that purpose must 
borrow Rs. 10,000 for one year on mortgage. It may be that 
you have money you want to place. If so, write to IvAn 
Ivdnovitch Orl6f, Nik61sky village, and he will arrange the 
affair with you independently of our relations to one another. 
. . . How gladly would I come to see you, were I not so over- 
whelmed with the school, family and estate business, that I 
have not even time to go out shooting. ... I hope to be free 
when winter comes. 

A small second edition of Tolstoy's ABC Book, in twelve 
paper-bound parts, was printed this year ; but he did not 
yet feel quite satisfied with that work, and towards the close 
of the year he revised it, abbreviating, omitting the arithmetic, 
and introducing graduated reading exercises. As soon as 
the pupil has mastered a few of the most necessary letters 
and can put these together, Tolstoy contrives out of the 
very simplest syllables to construct sentences that have a 


meaning and an interest. The New ABC Book, apart from 
the more advanced Readers ^ and consisting of ninety-two pages 
of elementary matter, was issued in 1875, at the low 
price of 14 copecks (about 4d.). Since Tolstoy's 
efforts have seldom been favoured by the Grovemment, it is 
worth noting that this edition w&s ^ Approved and recom- 
mended by the Scholarly Committee of the Ministry of 
Popular Education." Between one and two million copies 
of it have since been sold. The reading matter from his 
first ABC Book was subsequently gi*aded into four cheap 
Readers costing 3d. to 4d. each, and though not honoured 
by the Ministry of Education, they have from that time to 
this circulated in increasing quantities, being printed of late 
years in edition after edition of 50,000 at a time. 

During the winter of 1874-5 his wife's health gave 
Tolstoy much concern. In January he wrote to Fet : * I 
have ceased to fear for my wife's health ' ; but during the 
next couple of years her health continued to be far from 
satisfactory, though as a general rule the Countess has 
enjoyed good health and worn her years and the cares of 
her large family very lightly. 

The commencement of Anna Karenina^ or as Mrs. Ganiett 
prefers to call it, Anna Kar^nin^ appeared in the first four 
monthly numbers of the Russian Messenger for 1875. I 
do not agree with Mrs. Ganiett's alteration of the name of 
the book, nor am I quite satisfied with her rendering of 
some of the conversations in it ; but one need only compare 
her version with the other English translations of this novel, 
to see how much she has improved upon them. 

Early in the year Tolstoy's youngest son, Nicholas, died, 
and on 4th March 1875 ^ Tolstoy again wrote to Fet : 

We have one grief after another ; you and Marya Petrovna 
will certainly be sorry for us, especially for Sonya. Our 
youngest son, ten mouths old, fell ill three weeks ago with 

* This letter evidently relates to the year 1875, though in Fet's Vospomin- 
dniya it is given as belonging to 1874. 

1870-1878 861 

the dreadful ilbiess called ' water on the brain/ and after three 
weeks' terrible torture died three days ago, and we have buried 
him to-day. I feel it hard through my wife ; but for her, who 
was nursing him herself, it is very hard. 

In the same letter he mentions Anna KarSnina, and im- 
mediately afterwards he makes an allusion to the first idea 
of his Confession^ which was not actually written till 1879 : 

It pleases me very much that you praise Karenina and I hear 
that she gets praised; but assuredly never was vrriter so in- 
different to his success as I am ! 

On the one hand what preoccupies me are the school affairs, 
and on the other, strange to say, the subject of a new work, 
which took possession of me just at the worst time of the boy's 
illness, — and that illness itself and death. . . . 

From Tourg^nef I have received the translation, printed in 
the Temps, of my Ttvo Hussars, and a letter written in the 
third person asking to be informed that I have received it, and 
saying that other stories are being translated by Madame Viardot 
and Tourg6nef, — both of which were unnecessary. [Tolstoy 
means that they need neither have sent him the translation, 
nor informed him of what they were doing.] 

The commencement of Anna Kar6nina did not find favour 
with Tourgenef, who on 14th March wrote from Paris to 
A. S. Souvorin, the novelist and proprietor of the N6voye 
Vrcmya {New Times) : 

His [Tolstoy's] talent is quite extraordinary, but in Anna 
Karenina he, as one says here, a faitfausse route \ one feels the 
influence of Moscow, Slavophil nobility, Orthodox old maids, 
his own isolation, and the absence of real artistic freedom. 
Part 11 is simply dull and shallow — that's what's the matter. 

And writing in similar strains to Polonsky the poet, 
Tourgenef said : 

ylnna Karhiina does not please me, though there are some 
truly splendid pages (the steeplechase, the mowing, and the 
hunt). But it is all sour: smells of Moscow, holy oil, 
old maidishness^ Slavophilism^ and the aristocracy, etc 


The cordiality of Tourgenefs appreciation of Tolstoy'^s 
writings in general, is sufficient guarantee that it was no 
personal prejudice that led him to speak in this way of a 
book which is one of Tolstoy^'s three most important novels, 
and which many people hold to be the best of them all. 
What really caused his harsh judgment, is a matter I will 
deal with later on. 

This summer the whole Tolstoy family went to the 
Samdra estates, which had already been considerably in- 
creased by the last purchase, and which ultimately exceeded 
16,000 acres. Mouhamed Shah with his herd of mares and 
his kotch&oka — which Tolstoy called *our saloon^ — again 
appeared on the scene. A second kotchivka was set up 
for the use of the Tolstoys themselves, and was so much in 
favour that all the members of the family were eager to 
occupy it. 

The novelty and the peculiarities of steppe farming 
interested Tolstoy, and he, as well as other members of his 
household, took an active part in harvesting and winnowing. 
How primitive were the Samara methods of agriculture may 
be shown by mentioning their manner of threshing. A ring 
of horses was formed, tied head to tail. In the centre of 
the ring stood a driver with a long lash, and the horses 
were set trotting round a corresponding circle of sheaves, out 
of which they trod the grain. 

The virgin soil was ploughed up by five or even six pair 
of oxen, wearing round their necks deep-toned bells, sound- 
ing in a minor key. These things, together with the pipes 
of the boys who watched the herds, the sultry days, and the 
marvellously clear moonlit nights, had a wonderful charm 
for the whole party, and this charm was increased by Tol- 
stoy ""s capacity to notice and direct attention to whatever 
was interesting or beautiful. 

The whole family became interested, Behrs tells us, in 
their new fanning, and some of them went with Tolstoy 
as far afield as Orenbourg to purchase cattle and horses. 
He bought about a hundred Bashkir mares and crossed 

1870-1878 868 

them with an English trotter and with horses of other breeds^ 
hoping to obtain a good new type. 

One evening his whole herd, and Mouhamed Shah^s as 
well, were very nearly driven oflF by some Kirghiz nomads 
who were passing. The invaders were, however, pursued 
and driven oflF by two mounted Bashkir labourers. 

Tolstoy declared farming in Samara to be a game of 
chance. It cost nearly three times as much to plough up 
the land, sow it, and gather in a harvest, as it did to pur- 
chase the freehold of the estate ; and if during May and 
June there was not at least one good fall of rain, every- 
thing perished; whereas if it rained several times, the 
harvest yielded thirty to forty-fold. 

One day, at harvest time, a poor wandering Tartar, draw- 
ing two little children in a tiny cart, came up to the balcony 
on which the Tolstoys were sitting, and asked to be hired 
as a labourer. He was allowed to set up his wigwam in a 
field close by, and the Tolstoy children used to go there 
every day to feed the little Tartars. 

In the neighbouring village lived several well-to-do 
Russian peasants with whom Tolstoy was on very good 
terms. Either because they were economically independent 
and lived in a province where serfdom had not prevailed, 
or as a result of Tolstoy's tact and ability to set people 
at their ease, these peasants always behaved with dignity 
and self-respect. They shook hands when they said * How 
do you do ? ' and seemed quite at home with the Count. 

He used to notice with pleasure the good relations and 
complete religious toleration that existed in those parts 
between the Orthodox peasants and their Mohammedan 
neighbours ; and he was also delighted that the priest at 
Patrovka was on friendly terms with the Molokans he was 
trying to convert. 

One rainy night, after staying late at this priest's house, 
Tolstoy and his brother-in-law completely lost their way. 
It was so dark that they could not see their horses' heads. 
Behrs was riding an old working horse, which kept pulling 


to the left. Tolstoy, on hearing this, told him to let the 
horse follow its bent. Behrs therefore tied his reins so 
that they hung loose, and wrapping himself in his doak 
from the drenching rain, allowed the horse to go where 
it liked. Carefully avoiding the ploughed land, it soon 
brought them out on to the road, and, curiously enough, to 
just the one part of it which was distinguishable from the 
extraordinary sameness of the rest, so that the riders knew 
just where they were. 

The most striking event of this yearns stay in Samdra was 
a horse race, arranged by Tolstoy. Mouhamed Shah was 
authorised to announce to the peasants and neighbours that 
races would be held on the Count^s estate ; and invitations 
were sent to all likely to take part. Bashkirs and Kirghiz 
assembled, bringing with them tents, portable copper boilers, 
plenty of koumys, and even sheep. Oural Cossacks and 
Russian peasants also came from the whole surrounding 
neighbourhood. In preparation for the race, says Behrs : 

We ourselves chose a level place, measured out a huge circle 
three miles in circumference, marked it by running a plough 
round, and set up posts. Sheep and even one horse were 
prepared with which to regale visitors. By the appointed day 
some thousands of people had collected. On the wild steppe, 
covered with feather grass, a row of tents appeared, and soon 
a motley crowd enlivened it. On the conical hillocks (locally 
called * cones') felt and other carpets were spread, on which 
the Bashkirs sat in circles, their legs tucked under them. In 
the centre of the circle, out of a large Uwrsouk [a leather bottle 
made of an animal's leg] a young Bashkir poured koum^, 
handing the cup to each of the company in turn. Their songs, 
and the tunes played on their pipes and reeds, sounded some- 
what dreary to a European ear. Wrestling, at which the 
Bashkirs are particularly skilful, could be seen here and there. 
Thirty trained horses were entered for the chief race. The 
riders were boys of about ten years, who rode without saddles. 

This race was for thirty-three miles, and it took exactly 
an hour and forty minutes ; consequently it was run at the 

1870-1878 865 

rate of three minutes a mile. Of the thirty horses, ten ran 
the whole distance, the others giving up. The principal 
prizes were a horse, an ox, a gun, a clock, and a dressing- 
gown. The festival lasted two days, and passed off in 
perfect order and very gaily. To Tolstoy's delight no 
police were present. The guests all politely thanked their 
host and departed highly satisfied. *Even in the crowd,' 
says Behrs, * it seemed to me that Leo Nikoldyevitch 
knew how to evoke entrain combined with respect for good 

Tolstoy visited the Petrdvsky Fair, as was his yearly 
custom, and stayed at the Bouzoulouk Monastery, where a 
hermit resided who was * saving his soul ' by a solitary and 
ascetic life. This man lived in an underground catacomb. 
When he came out he walked about the garden and showed 
his visitors an apple-tree he had planted forty years before, 
under which it was his custom to sit when receiving pilgrims. 
He spoke to Tolstoy about the Scriptures, and showed him 
his catacomb-home, the coffin in which he slept, and the 
large crucifix before which he prayed. 

Tolstoy considered that the respect paid to this man by 
pilgrims and other visitors, was the outcome of genuine 
religious feeling, and proved that the hermit, by giving the 
example of a pure, unworldly life, supplied a real want. 

Readers of Tolstoy's short stories will be aware of the use 
to which he subsequently put his knowledge of the Bashkirs 
and of the hermit. 

On 26th August, after reaching Ydsnaya, he wrote to Fet : 

Two days ago we arrived home safely. . . . 

We have had an average harvest, but the price of labour has 
been enormous, so that finally ends only just meet. For two 
months I have not soiled my hands with ink nor my heart 
with thoughts. Now I am settling down again to dull^ common- 
place Anna Kardnina with the sole desire to clear a space 
quickly, and obtain leisure for other occupations — only not for 
the educational work I love but wish to abandon. It takes too 
much time. 


His Samara experiences confirmed in him the feeling that 
not the civilisation and progress and political struggles of 
the Western world and of the small Westernised section of 
Russians, were really important, but the great primitive 
struggle of plain people to obtain a subsistence in healthy, 
natural conditions ; and he adds in the same letter : 

Why fate took me there [to SamAra] I do not know ; but I 
know that I have listened to speeches in the English Parlia- 
ment^ which is considered very important^ and it seemed to me 
dull and insignificant; but there, are flies, dirt^ and Bashkir 
peasants, and I, watching them with intense respect and 
anxiety, became absorbed in listening to them and watching 
them, and felt it all to be very important. 

One must live as we lived, in a healthy out-of-the-way part 
of Samdra, and see the struggle going on before one's eyes of 
the nomadic life (of millions of people on an immense territory) 
with the primitive agricultural life, in order to realise all the 
importance of that struggle. 

Tolstoy^s eldest son, Sergius, had now reached the age of 
twelve. Besides their English governess and a Swiss lady, the 
children had at different times a Swiss, a Frenchman, and 
a German as tutors for modem languages. Tutors and 
students who acted as tutors, also lodged at Yasnaya and 
taught other subjects. A music master came over from 
Toiila. The eldest boy had considerable musical talent, 
and the family as a whole were musical. As soon as they 
had mastered their finger exercises, the Count insisted on 
their at once being allowed to leam serious pieces, under 
which heading he did not even include operas. 

Every effort was made to awaken and foster the talent 
for drawing and painting which some of the children, and 
especially the eldest daughter, Tatiana, possessed ; but lessons 
in these subjects were only given to those who showed real 
capacity for them. 

Much as Tolstoy disliked the curriculum of the Grammar 
Schools ('Gymnasiums,'' as they are called in Russia), he did 

1870-1878 867 

not wish to make it impossible for his sons to enter the 
University, and they followed the usual classical course. 
Sergius passed his examinations each year in Toula 
Gymnasium, being carefully coached at home. 

In his RecoUectioiis Behrs tells us of Tolstoy's enlivening 
influence in the family : 

I cannot suffiq^ently describe the joyous and happy frame 
of mind that usually reigned at Ydsnaya Polyina. Its source 
was always Leo NikoUyevitch. In conversation about abstract 
questions^ about the education of children^ about outside 
matters — his opinion was always most interesting. When play- 
ing croquet^ or during our walks^ he enlivened us all by his 
humour and his participation, taking a real part in the game 
or the walk. No thought or act so simple but that Leo 
NikoUyevitch could make it interesting, evoking in those 
around a kindly and cheerful relation to it. . . . 

He did not himself take part in the mushroom hunts, much 
in vogue at Ydsnaya, but he knew how to encourage us to do so. 

With me, he liked to mow, or use the rake; to do gymr 
nasties, to race, and occasionally to play leap-frog or gorodki [a 
game in which a stick is thrown at some other shorter sticks 
placed in a pattern], etc. Though far inferior to him in strength, 
for he could lift 180 lbs. with one hand, I could easily match 
him in a race, but seldom passed him, for I was always laughing. 
That mood accompanied all our exercises. Whenever we 
happened to pass where mowers were at work, he would go up 
to them and borrow a scythe from the one who seemed most 
tired. I of course imitated his example. He would then ask 
me. Why we, with well-developed muscles, cannot mow six 
days on end, though a peasant does it on rye-bread, and 
sleeping on damp earth? 'You just try to do it under such 
conditions,' he would add in conclusion. When leaving the 
meadow, he would take a handful of hay from the haycock and 
sniff it, keenly enjoying its smell. 

Children and grown-ups alike played croquet at Ydsnaya. 
The game generally began after dinner in the evening, and 
only finished by candlelight. Behrs says that, having 
played it with Tolstoy, he considers croquet to be a game of 


chance. Tolstoy's commendation of a good shot always 
pleased the player and aroused the emulation of his oppo- 
nents. The kindly irony of his comments on a miss, also 
acted as a spur. A simple word firom him, uttered just 
at the right moment and in the right tone, produced that 
entrain which makes any occupation interesting and infects 
all who come under its influence. 

The sincerity of Tolstoy'^s nature showed itself in the 
frank expression of his passing mood. If, when driving to 
the station, he saw that they had missed the train, he would 
exclaim, ^ Ach ! weVe missed it! 'with such intensity that 
every one within earshot would first feel as though a calamity 
had occurred, and would then join in the hearty laughter 
which his own vehement exclamation evoked in Tolstoy. 
It was the same when he made a bad miss at croquet ; and 
also if, when sitting at home, he suddenly remembered some 
engagement he had forgotten to keep. If, as sometimes 
happened, his exclamation alarmed his wife, he would half- 
jokingly add, like a scolded child, ' I'll never do it again ! ' 

His laughter, which began on a high note, had something 
wonderfully infectious about it. His head would hang over 
on one side, and his whole body would shake. 

His good-natured irony constantly acted as a stimulant to 
those about him. If, for instance, some one was in the 
dumps about the weather, Tolstoy would say : ' Is your 
weather behaving badly?" Or when Behrs was sitting 
comfortably listening to a conversation, he would say to 
him : ' As you are on the move, you might please bring 
me so-and-so.' 

When he felt it wise to reject an extra cigar or a second 
helping of some favourite dish, he would remark to those 
present : ^ Wait till I am grown up, and then I will have 
two helpings,' or ' two cigars,' as the case might be. 

If, says Behrs, ' he noticed any of the children making a 
wry or affected face, he generally called out, " Now then, no 
grimacing; you'll only spoil your phiz,"' 

Behrs also tells us that : 

1870-1878 869 

What he called ^ the Numidian cavalry ' evoked our noisiest 
applause. He would unexpectedly spring up from his place 
and^ raising one arm in the air with its hand hanging quite loose 
from the wrist, he would run lightly through the rooms. All 
the children, and sometimes the grown-ups also, would follow 
his example with the same suddenness. 

Tolstoy read aloud very well, and would often read to 
the family or to visitors. 

His contempt for doctors and medicine is plainly indi- 
cated both in War and Peace and Anna Karhiina. Lake 
Rousseau he considered that the practice of medicine should 
be general and not confined to one profession; and this 
opinion inclined him to approve of the folk-remedies used 
by the peasants. But he did not go the length of refusing 
to call in a doctor when one of the family was seriously ill. 

In November the Countess bore a daughter, who died on 
the second day after her birth. Before the year closed, 
Tolstoy'^s aunt, Pelageya Ilynishna Ushkof, with whom he 
had lived in his young days in Kazdn, also passed away. She 
had been separated from her husband before his death in 
1869, and had long not even seen him, though they re- 
mained quite friendly towards one another. She was very 
religious in an Orthodox Church way, and after her husband^s 
death retired to the Optin nunnery. Subsequently she 
moved to the Toula nunnery, but arranged to spend much 
of her time at Ydsnaya ; where in her eightieth year she fell 
ill and died. She was in general a good-tempered though 
not clever woman, and all her life long strictly observed the 
ceremonies of the Church ; yet she was so afraid of death 
that on her death-bed she was reluctant to receive the 
eucharist, because it brought home to her mind the fact 
that she was dying ; and as a consequence of the sufferings 
caused by the fear of death, she became irritable with ail 
about her. 

A servant who lived in the house at the time, tells that 
while at Ydsnaya she used, on the first of each month, to 
send for a priest As soon as he arrived, and began the 



usual ceremony of blessing with holy water, Tolstoy would 
escape and hide himself. Not till the gardener, SemytSn — 
whom he used to send into the conservatory to reconnoitre 
— brought him word that the priest had gone, would 
Tolstoy reappear in the house. 

About that time, however, his attitude towards Church 
ceremonies altered. His man-servant Sergey Arbouzof (who 
saw only the external signs of the complex inner struggle 
going on in Tolstoy) tells us : 

Suddenly a wonderful change came over him, of which I was 
a witness. In 1875 a priest, Vasfly Iv4novitch, from the Toi!kla 
Seminary, used to come to teach theology to Tolstoy's children. 
At first, Leo NikoMyevitch hardly ever talked to him, but it 
once happened that a snow-storm obliged Vasfly Ivinovitch to 
stop the night at our house. The Count began a conversation 
with him, and they did not go to bed till daylight They talked 
the whole night. 

From that day Leo Nikoliyevitch became very thoughtful, 
and always talked with Vasily Ivinovitch. When Lent came 
round, the Count got up one morning and said, ^ I am going to 
do my devotions, and prepare to receive communion. You can 
go back to bed, but first tell the coachman not to get up. 
I will saddle Kalmyk (his favourite horse at that time) myself. 
Forgive me, Sergey, if I have ever offended you ! ' and he went 
off to church. 

From that day for a couple of years he always went to church, 
seldom missing a Sunday. The whole village was surprised, 
and asked, ^VVhat has the priest told the Count, that has 
suddenly made him so fond of church-going ? ' 

It used to happen that the Count would come into my hut 
when I was teaching my little boy religion. 

^ What are you teacliing him ? * he would ask. 

And I used to say, ' To pray.' 

* Ah ! ' said he, ' that is right. A man who does not pray to 
God is not a real man.' 

The publication o{ Anna Karcnina was renewed in the first 
four numbers of the Russian Messenger for 1876. 
^^''^ On 1st March Tolstov writes to Fet : 

1870-1878 871 

Things are still not all right with us. My wife does not get 
over her last illness^ coughs, gets thin, and has first fever and 
then headaches. And therefore the house lacks well-being, 
and I lack mental tranquillity, which I now particularly need 
for my work. The end of winter and beginning of spring is 
always my chief time for work, and I must finish my novel, 
which now wearies me. ... I always hope a tooth will come 
loose in your jaw, or in your thrashing machine, and cause you 
to go to Moscow. Then I shall spin a cobweb at Kozlovka [the 
nearest station to Y^naya] and catch you. 

In April Fet wrote to Tolstoy to say that he had been 
seriously ill, had thought he was dying, and ^ wished to call 
you to see how I departed/ On 29th April Tolstoy replies 
in a letter notable because it gives us a glimpse of the pro- 
gress he had made in the fierce five-year inner struggle with 
doubt which preceded the production of his Confession : 

I am grateful to you for thinking of calling me to see your 
departure, when you supposed it was near. I will do the same 
when I get ready to go thither, if I am able to think. No one 
will be so necessary to me at that moment as you and my 
brother. When death draws near, intercourse with people who 
in this life look beyond its bounds, is precious and cheering ; 
and you and those rare real people I have met in life, always 
stand on the very verge and see clearly, just because they look 
now at Nirvana — the illimitable, the unknown — and now at 
Sansara; and that glance at Nirvana strengthens their sight. 
But worldly people, however much they may talk about God, 
are unpleasant to you and me, and must be a torment when 
one is dying, for they do not see what we see, namely the God 
who ' is more indefinite and distant, but loflier and more 
indubitable,' as was said in that article. 

You are ill and think of death, and I am alive and do not 
cease thinking of and preparing for the same thing. . . . Much 
that I have thought, I have tried to express in the last chapter 
of the April number of the Russian Messetiger [Anna Karinina, 
Part I, Chap. XX]. 

The passage referred to, telling of the death of Levin^s 


brother, is evidently based on the death of Tolstoy's own 
brother Demetrius; and it may here be mentioned that 
many characters in Anna KarSnina are drawn more or less 
closely from life. For instance, Agafya MihAylovna, the 
servant, was a real person, and that was her real name. She 
died at Ydsnaya only a few years ago. Ydsnaya Polydna 
itself, in many of its details, is also described in the noveL 
On 12th May Tolstoy again writes to Fet : 

It is already five days since I received the horse, and every 
day I prepare but never make time to write to you. Here the 
spring and summer life has begun, and our house is full of 
guests and of bustle. This summer life seems to me like a 
dream : it contains some slight remains of my real, winter life, 
but consists chiefly of visions, now pleasant and now unpleasant, 
from some absurd world not ruled by sane sense. Among 
these visions came your beautiful stallion. I am very much 
obliged to you for it. Where am I to send the money to .> . . . 

An event which occupies me very much at present is 
Sergey's examinations, which begin on the 27th. . * . What 
a terrible summer ! Here it is dreadful and mournful to look at 
the wood, especially at the young trees. They have all perished. 

On 18th May he wrote again : 

I have been slow in answering your long and cordial letter 
because I have been unwell and dispirited, as I still am, but I 
will write at least a few lines. Our house is full of people : my 
niece Nag6maya with two children, the Kouzmfnskys with four 
children ; and Sonya [the Countess] is still poorly, and I dejected 
and dull-minded. Our one hope was for good weather, and 
that we have not got. As you and I resemble one another, 
you must know the condition in which one feels oneself to be, 
now a God from whom nothing is hid, and now stupider than 
a horse. In that state I am at present. So do not be exacting. 
Till next letter, yours, L. Tolstoy. 

The Kouzminskys referred to above were Tanya, her 
husband, and their family. They spent every summer at 
Yasnaya, in the 'wing^ house. When discussing any 
excursion or other undertaking with Mr. Kouzminsky, 

1870-1878 878 

Tolstoy would often say, ^ But we must hear what the 
Authorities have to say about it,^ the Authorities being 
their wives. 

Passing into his * summer condition," Tolstoy ""s attention 
to Anna Karinina slackened; but before the end of the 
year he set energetically to work to finish it. The interest 
aroused by the book was extreme, and the story goes that 
Moscow ladies used to send to the establishment where the 
novel was being printed, to try to find out what the con- 
tinuation would be. 

On 21st July Tolstoy writes inviting Fefs brother, Peter 
Afdnasyevitch, a great lover of horses, to accompany him to 
Samdra ; and in the same letter he makes an allusion to the 
troubles of the Slavs in Turkey, where fighting had already 
been going on for a twelvemonth with the Herz^ovinians. 
Peter Afandsyevitch had gone as a volunteer, and had re- 
turned after the failure of the insurrection. 

21 Jtdy 1876. 

I am very much to blame^ dear Afandsy Afandsyevitch, for 
having been so slow in writing to you. I prepare to write 
every day, but cannot find time because I am doing nothing. . • . 
Strahof was here a week ago, and we philosophised to the 
point of weariness. . . . 

I press the hand of Peter Afan^evitch. I should like to 
hear his stories about Herzegovina, in the existence of which I 
do not believe ! 

I am arranging to go to Samdra in September. If Peter 
Afandsyevitch has no plans for September, will not he go 
with me to see the Kirghiz and their horses.^ How jolly it 
would be ! 

Mention has already been made of the fact that Tolstoy, 
who understood horses very well, was at this time interested 
in horse-breeding as a source of revenue. To buy them he 
visited Orenbourg, of which Province General Kryzhandvsky, 
a friend who had been one of his superior officers in 
Sevastopol, was now Govemor-Greneral. In a letter of 
13th November Tolstoy writes to Fet : 


Pity me for two things: (1) a good-for-nothing coachman 
took the stallions to Samdra and, wishing to take a short cut, 
drowned Gouneba in a bog within ten miles of the estate ; (2) 
I sleep and cannot write ; I despise myself for laziness and do 
not allow myself to take up any other work. 

Twenty-eight years after the loss of Gouneba, the 
Countess, in speaking to me of her husband^s qualities as a 
man of affairs, remarked that his schemes were very good, 
but that he generally spoilt them by lack of care in details. 
* For instance,'' she remarked, ' it was quite a good idea of 
his to send a very fine stallion which cost Rs. SOOO [about 
J^60] to our estate in Samdra. There were no such 
horses in the district; but he must needs entrust it to a 
drunken Tartar who made away with it and said he had 
lost it.' 

On 7th December 1876 Tolstoy wrote to Fet acknow- 
ledging a poem, ^ Among the Stars,' which the latter had 
sent him : 

That poem is not only worthy of you, but is specially, 
specially good, with that philosophic-poetic character which I 
expect from you. It is excellent that it Ls said by the stars. . . . 
It is also good, as my wife remarked, that on the same sheet on 
which the poem is written, you pour out your grief that the 
price of kerosene has risen to 12 copecks. That is an indirect 
but sure sign of a poet. 

The reader is by this time well aware of Tolstoy's devo- 
tion to music. Though it was at times crowded out of his 
life by other interests, he always returned to it with ardour 
when opportunity oflTered. Behrs tells us that Tolstoy 
generally, when playing, chose serious music. 

He often sat down to the piano before beginning to work. . . . 
He always accompanied my youngest sister [Tanya] and en- 
joyed her singing very much. I noticed that the sensation 
music evoked in him expressed itself by a slight pallor and a 
scarcely perceptible grimace, suggestive of something like 
terror. Hardly a day passed in summer without my sister sing- 

1870-1878 875 

ing and without the piano being played. Occasionally we all 
sang together^ and he always played the accompaniments. 

As Tolstoy's spiritual crisis approached, the attraction of 
music for him seemed to increase, and it was about this 
period, that is to say in December 1876, that he made 
acquaintance with the composer P. L'jTschaikdvsky, who had 
held the post of Director of the Moscow Conservatoire, the 
first seeds of which Tolstoy had helped to plant nearly 
twenty years before. 

Tschaikdvsky had from his youth up been a devout 
admirer of Tolstoy, whose skill in reading the human heart 
appeared to him almost superhuman. He was therefore 
highly gratified when Tolstoy of his own accord sought his 
acquaintance. At first their personal intercourse did not 
appear to lessen the composer's reverence for the author, 
for on 23rd December 1876 he wrote to a friend : 

Count L. N. Tolstoy spent some time here recently. He 
visited me several times and spent two whole evenings with me. 
I am tremendously flattered, and proud of the interest I have 
inspired in him^ and for my part am completely enchanted by 
his ideal personality. 

Tschaikdvsky induced Nicholas Rubinstein, then Direc- 
tor of the Moscow Conservatoire, to arrange a musical 
evening solely for Tolstoy, and at this concert, Rubinstein, 
Fitzenhagen, and Adolph Brddsky, who is now Principal 
of the Manchester College of Music were among the chief 

One of the pieces performed by a quartet was Tschaikdv- 
sky's ' Andante in D Major,' which so affected Tolstoy that 
he wept. * Never, perhaps, in my life,' says Tschaikdvsky, 
' was I so flattered, or my vanity as a composer so touched, 
as when Leo Nikoldyevitch, sitting next to me and listening 
to the quartet performing my Andante, burst into tears.' 

After Tolstoy had returned to Ydsnaya he wrote to 
Tschaikdvsky, sending him a collection of folk-songs, and 


I send you the songs, dear Peter Ilyftch. I have again looked 
them through. They will be a wonderful treasure in your 
hands. But for God's sake work them up and use them in a 
Mozart-Haydn style, and not in a Beethoven-Schumann-Berlioz, 
artificial way, seeking the unexpected. How much I left un- 
said to you. I really said nothing of what I wanted to say. 
There was no time. I was enjoying myself. This last stay of 
mine in Moscow will remain one of the best of my reminis- 
cences. Never have I received so precious a reward for my 
literary labours as on that wonderful evening. 

Tsehaikdvsky replied : 

Count, I am sincerely grateful to you for sending the songs. 
I must tell you candidly that they have been taken down by an 
unskilful hand, and bear only traces of their pristine beauty. 
The chief defect is that they have been artificially squeezed 
and forced into a regular, measured form. Only Russian dance 
music has a rhythm and a regular and equally accentuated 
beat ; but folk-ballads have of course nothing in common with 
dance songs. Moreover, most of these songs are, arbitrarily 
it seems, written in a solemn D Major, which again does not 
suit a real Russian song, which almost always has an indefinite 
tonality approximating nearest of all to ancient Church music. 
In general, the songs you have sent me cannot be worked up 
in a regular and systematic way : that is to say, one cannot 
make a collection of them, because for that they would have to be 
taken down as nearly as possible in the way in which the people 
perform them. That is an extremely difficult matter, demand- 
ing fine musical feeling and great historico-musical erudition. 
Except Balakfref, and to some extent Prokounin, I do not know 
any one competent for the task. But as material for symphonic 
treatment, your songs can be of use, and are even very good 
material, which I certainly will avail myself of in one way 
or other. 

It is rather disappointing to find that the intercourse be- 
tween these two men, each so great in his own way, and each 
such an admirer of the other s genius, was not continued. 

Tschaikovsky's expectations had been pitched too high, 

1870-1878 877 

and he felt a certain disappointment that his ^ demigod^ 
was, after all, but human. He had dreaded to meet the 
novelist lest the latter should penetrate the secret recesses 
of his soul ; but, says Tschaikdvsky : 

He who in his writings was the deepest of heart-seers^ 
proved in personal contact to be a man of simple^ whole, and 
frank nature, showing very little of the omniscience I had 
feared. ... It was plain he did not at all regard me as a 
subject for his observation, but simply wanted to chat about 
music, in which he was then interested. He took a pleasure 
in denying Beethoven, and plainly expressed doubts of his 
genius. This was a trait not at all worthy of a great man. 
To pull down a universally acknowledged genius to the level 
of one's own intelligence, is characteristic of small people. 

Feeling thus, Tschaikdvsky purposely avoided meeting 
Tolstoy again, and even took a temporary aversion to Anna 
Karenhuiy though eventually he returned to his former 
admiration of Tolstoy's novels^ 

The quarrel between Tolstoy and the art specialists, as 
illustrated by Tschaikdvsky'*s remark, is too important a 
matter to be passed over without some consideration. 

The case of the specialists, when Tolstoy calls in question 
the merits of Alng Lear or of the Ninth Symphony^ is an 
easy one. When it is a literary matter they say Tolstoy is 
jealous ; and when it is a matter relating to one of the other 
arts they say he is incompetent. But jealousy cannot be the 
explanation, for if Tolstoy criticises Shakespeare he praises 
Dickens ; and as to incompetence, there is plenty of evidence 
to show that he enjoys Beethoven, and enjoys even the works 
of Beethoven's last period, which are the ones he criticises. 
There is, for instance, the episode with Mile. Oberlender, 
which will be recounted later on, and we have his own state- 
ment : 

I should mention that whatever other people understand of 
the productions of Beethoven's later period, I, being very sus- 
ceptible to music, equally understand. For a long time I used 


to attune myself so as to i^elight in those shapeless improvisa- 
tions which form the subject-matter of the works of Beethoven's 
later period ; but I had only to consider the question of art 
seriously, and to compare the impression I received from 
Beethoven's later works with those pleasant, clear, and strong 
musical impressions which are transmitted, for instance, by the 
melodies of Bach (his arias), Haydn, Mozart, Chopin (when his 
melodies are not overloaded with complications and ornamenta- 
tion), and of Beethoven himself in his earlier period, and above 
all, with the impressions produced by folk-songs, — Italian, 
Norwegian, or Russian, — by the Hungarian tsardas, and other 
such simple, clear, and powerful music, and the obscure, almost 
unhealthy excitement from Beethoven's later pieces that I had 
artificially evoked in myself was destroyed {What is Art?). 

Tolstoy ""s view is a broad view, placing art in a definite 
relation to the whole of life. It is quite simple, but to 
understand it, a certain sequence of thought is necessary ; 
and as a good many art specialists are not capable of think- 
ing consecutively, they could, perhaps, not understand it if 
they tried. And often they do not even try ; for they feel 
that he is saying something that runs counter to their wish. 

Tolstoy asks of all human activities, including art, What 
service do you render ? Are you worth the honour we pay 
you ? Art, he declares, is worth all and more than all the 
honour that is paid it, being an activity indispensable to the 
life and welfare of humanity. The reason why it is indispens- 
able, lies in the fact that art is the great unifying influence 
which makes harmonious life among men possible. The 
influence of art compels us to feel that we are of one blood, 
and share the same joys and sorrows, hopes, fears, and aspira- 
tions with our fellows old and young, rich and poor, wise 
and simple. Art lays in the souls of men (for good and for 
evil) the rails along which their actions will naturally pass. 
That is why it is so much more important than, for instance, 
chess, or than games played with balls. 

But highly specialized art tends to become a narrow 
monopoly, limited to people who have an advantage over 

1870-1878 879 

their fellows, in money, leisure, or place. If it be really the 
great thing it is esteemed to be, its influence is yet much 
diminished by the fact that it reaches so few. 

What proportion of the world's population have ever 
heard the Ninth Symphxmy or seen Kvng Lear ? And how 
many of them have ever been really moved by the one or 
the other ? If these things be the highest art, and yet the 
bulk of men live without them and do not need them, then 
the highest art lacks all claim to such high respect as Tolstoy 
is ready to accord to art. 

Tolstoy's work among peasant children has convinced him 
that the normal human being possesses capacities for the 
enjoyment of art ; and that in most unexpected places the 
capacity to produce admirable art is now lying latent. 
That is why he sets up Brevity, Simplicity, and Sincerity as 
the criterions of art, and why he believes that folk-tales 
and folk-songs and folk-dances, the Gospel parables, such Old 
Testament stories as the history of Joseph, the Arabian 
Nights and the Christmas Carol; and music such as the 
tzardas, the Swanee River^ the Old Hundredth^ and Bcu^h's 
arias, are infinitely more important to the life and wellbeing 
of humanity than Kiiig Ijcar or the Nmth Symphom/, But 
I must say no more on this subject, especially as I have 
dealt with it at some length in Tolstoy and His Problems, 

Tolstoy — who had boasted of not reading newspapers, and 
who had lived so detached from politics and the events of 
contemporary history — now began to feel keenly interested 
in a question closely connected with Russia's foreign policy. 

Following the insurrection in Herzegovina, another had 
broken out in Bulgaria in May 1876, but had been quickly 
suppressed by the Turks, who burnt some sixty-five villages ; 
the Bashi-Bazouks committing unspeakable atrocities on 
the defenceless inhabitants. At the commencement of July, 
Servia and Montenegro declared war against Turkey ; but, 
in spite of help rendered by numerous Russian volunteers, 
they were soon crushed by the Turks, and would have been 
completely at their mercy had not Russia, on 31st October, 


issued an ultimatum demanding an annistice, which Turkey 
conceded. On 10th November Alexander II made a speech 
in the Moscow Kremlin, in which he declared that he would 
act independently of the other powers unless satisfactory 
guarantees of reform were obtained forthwith from the 
Sultan. These events grcwlually led to the war which broke 
out between Russia and Turkey in April 1877. 

Before this, however, in the letter of ISth November 
1876, already quoted, Tolstoy wrote to Fet : 

I went to Moscow to hear about the war. This whole aflSur 
agitates me greatly. It is well for those to whom it is clear ; 
but I am frightened when I begin to reflect on all the com- 
plexity of the conditions amid which history is made, and how 
some Madame A. — with her vanity — becomes an indispensable 
cog in the whole machine ! 

The Russo-Turkish imbroglio led, early in 1877, to 
a split between Tolstoy and Katkdf. Tolstoy, at bottom 
and in his own original way, was certainly a reformer ; and 
his alliance with Katkdf, who was quite reactionary, had 
always been rather like the yoking of an ox with an ass. 
At this time Katk()f was ardent for the liberation of the 
Slavs from Turkish tyranny, laudatory of those who volun- 
teered for the war, and eager for the aggrandisement of 
Russia. Tolstoy, with his knowledge of the realities of war 
and his insight into the motives that actuate the men who 
fight, had his doubts about the heroic and self-sacrificing 
character of the volunteers and the purity of the patriotism 
of the press; and he expressed these doubts very plainly 
in some of the concluding chapters of Anna Karhiina : as, 
for instance, where he makes Levin say of * the unanimity 
of the press " : 

' That *s been explained to me : as soon as there 's a war 
their incomes are doubled. So how can they help believing in 
the destinies of the people and the Slavonic races . . . and 
all the rest of it?' 

1870-1878 «81 

The result was that when the final chapters of the 
novel were appearing in the Russian Messenger daring the 
first months of 1877, Katkdf returned some of the MS. 
to Tolstoy with numerous corrections and a letter saying 
that he could not print it unless his corrections were 

Tolstoy was furious that a journalist should dare to 
alter a single word in his book, and in reply sent a sharp 
letter to Katkdf, which resulted in a rupture. Tolstoy 
issued the last part of Anna KarSnina separately in book 
form and not in the magazine, besides, of course, issuing 
the whole work in book form, as usual ; and, in the May 
number of his Russian Messenger^ Katkdf had to wind up 
the story as best he could, by giving a brief summary of 
the concluding part. 

These events throw light on the following letter to 

23 March 1877. 

You can't imagine how glad I am to have your approval of 
my writings, dear Afan^y Afan^syevitch, and in general to 
receive your letter. You write that the Russian Messenger ha:s 
printed some one else's poem^ while your Temptation lies wait- 
ing. It is the dullest and deadest editorial office in existence. 
They have become terribly repulsive to me, not on my own 
account, but for the sake of others. . . . 

My head is now better, but as it gets better it has to work 
that much harder. March and the beginning of April are the 
months when I work most, and I still continue to be under the 
delusion that what I am writing is very important^ though I 
know that in a month's time I shall be ashamed to remember 
that 1 thought so. Have you noticed that a new line has now 
been started, and that everybody is writing poetry: very 
bad poetry, but they all do it. Some five new poets have 
introduced themselves to me lately. 

The dislike Tolstoy felt of the artificially stimulated war 
fever (though, to do Katkdf and his friends justice, one must 
admit that no European Power during the last fifty years 


has had more justification for war than Russia had for 
intervening in defence of the Slav population of Turkey) 
was connected with the religious impulse that was banning 
to reshape his whole life; but it does not appear that he 
actually disapproved of the war after Russia had officially 
commenced it. What he primarily objected to was, that 
private individuals should push the Government into a war. 
It was a little before this that Fet told Tolstoy the 
following story. Sauntering in a churchyard, he had come 
upon an inscription which touched him more than any 
epitaph he had ever read. The tombstone was in the form 
of an obelisk of plain grey sandstone. On one of its four 
sides were deeply cut the words : 

Here is buried the body of the peasaivt girl Mary ; 
on another side : 

Here also is buried an infant of the female sex. 
On the side opposite the name of the deceased stood these 
words ill-spelt : 

This^ my dear^ is the last adornment I can give thee ; 
and below stood the name of 

Retired non-commissioned officer So-and-SQ. 

In his next letter Tolstoy writes : 

18 Oct(^r 1876. 

7%w, my dear^ Is the last adornment I can give thee is 
charming! I have told it twice, and each time my voice 
has broken with tears. 

In Tolstoy's next letter to Fet, dated 11th January, we 
iu-7 get a glimpse of one of the reasons that led this 
strenuous worker to prefer a country life : 

Dear Afanasv Afanasvevitch, — One does not strike or cut 
off the head that owns its fault ! I confess that I am quite at 
fault towards you. But truly, in Moscow I am in a condition of 
irresponsibility ; my nerves are out of order, the hours turn to 
minutes^ and as though on purpose, the people I do not want 
turn up and prevent my seeing those whom 1 do want. 

Among the people whom in his search for truth Tolstoy 

1870-1878 888 

did want to know, were some of the leading scientists of 
that day — a day when many men thought that Darwin had 
opened the gateway to a knowledge which would gradually 
solve the mysteries of life and death, the here and the 
hereafter. The great literary fame Tolstoy now enjoyed 
made it an easy matter to make such acquaintances. 

One of the scientists he got to know, was a celebrated 
pix)fessor of Chemistry, A. M. BoutlercSf, whom to his amaze- 
ment he found to be much concerned with table-tiuning and 
spiritualism ; occupations Tolstoy held in contempt. 

A letter to Fet, dated 14th April, gives some inkling of 
what was going on in Tolstoy's mind at this time : 

I value every letter of yours, especially such as this last! 
You would hardly believe how pleased I am at what you write 
'On the existence of the Deity.' I agree with it all, and 
should like to say much about it, but cannot in a letter, and am 
too busy. It is the first time you have spoken to me about the 
Deity — God. And I have long been thinking unceasingly about 
that chief problem. Do not say that one cannot think about 
it ! One not only can, but must ! In all ages the best, the 
real people, have thought about it. And if we cannot think of 
it as they did, we must find out how. Have you read Pensecs 
de Pascal — i.e. have you read it recently with a mature head- 
piece ? When (which God grant) you come to see me, we will 
talk of many things, and I will give you that book. Were I 
free from my novel — of which the end is already in type and I 
am correcting the proofs — I would at once on receipt of your 
letter have come to you. 

In the middle of this summer Tolstoy, bringing with him 
N. Strdhof, paid Fet an unexpected visit. The latter 
had at this time engaged as governess a Mile. Oberlender, 
an excellent pianist, and in his RecoHectiona he tells us that 
on this visit : 

The Count, a sensitive esthete by nature, was greatly taken 
by the piano playing of Mile. Oberlender. He sat down to play 
duets with her, and they played through almost the whole of 


Fet quotes Tolstoy^s comment on the lady^s performanoe : 

' When we were young, such pianists travelled across Europe 
giving concerts. She reads any piece of music as you read 
poetry^ finding just the suitable expression for each note/ 

It was during this summer that Tolstoy, accompanied 
by N. Strahof, visited for the first time the Monastery of 
Optin, which is situated in the Kalouga Groveniment, lying 
immediately west of Toula. A very prominent figure in 
the monastic world at that time was the Staretz Father 
Ambrose, with whom Tolstoy had some long conversa- 
tions. From Tolstoy"*s sister Mary NikoWye\Tia, I learnt 
that Tolstoy and the holy father, on this or a subse- 
quent visit, had a rather fierce dispute as to the meaning 
of certain texts; and that even in those days, when he 
was still Orthodox, Tolstoy was by no means willing to 
allow his spiritual superiors to shape his mind for him. 
Among others whose acquaintance Tolstoy made there, 
was a monk who had formerly been an officer in the 
Guards. The chief among Tolstoy'*s posthumous worits 
(I mean those put aside for publication after his death) 
is a novel called Father Scrgiu^^ the hero of which is a 
man of the world who lx?comes a monk, acquires a reputa- 
tion for sanctity, and then yields to temptation and ends as 
an outcast. No doubt the visits to the Optin Monastery, 
which wei*e repeated several times, supplied Tolstoy with 
material which many years later he utilised in that work. 

At Optin, Tolstoy had met his friend Prince Obolensky, 
to whom on his retimi journey he paid a visit at the latter's 
esbite of Beryosino. Here he renewed acquaintance with 
N. Rubinstein, who was staying with Obolensky, and whose 
pianoforte playing he gi'eatly enjoyed. 

A visit which much interested Tolstoy was paid him 
alxDut this time by an itinemnt story-teller, expert in 
folk-lore, wielding beautifully the simple language of 
the people, such as Tolstoy loves tmd has utilised in his 
stories. He took down in writing some of this travellers 

1870-1878 885 

folk-tales, and from them subsequently worked up into 
literary form What Men Live By, The Three Hermits (in- 
cluded in Tzoenty 'three Tales\ and some other's. The root 
idea of What Men Live By is that of an angel sent by God 
to do penance on earth for a well-intentioned act of dis- 
obedience ; and it seems that it is one of the most widely dis- 
seminated of the worWs legends, appearing and reappearing 
in the literature of many countries tlirough many centuries. 

In the latter part of 1877 a number of Turkish prisoners 
of war were located in an abandoned sugar-factory between 
Toiila and Yusnaya. Tolstoy visited them there, and found 
that they were fairly well treated. Being himself greatly 
concerned about religion, he naturally talked to them on 
that subject, and was much impressed when he found that 
each of them had a copy of the Koran in his kit. 

All through this year, amid bustle and activity of various 
kinds, spiritual problems continued to torment Tolstoy, and 
his physical health began to show signs of the strain. Here 
is a note to Fet, dated 2nd September 1877 : 

Just now I am constantly out hunting and am busy arranging 
how to place our educational staff for the winter. I have been 
to Moscow looking for a teacher and a tutor. To-day I feel 
quite ill. 

Nor did matters improve as the months went on, ^ 
for on 27th January he again writes : 

Most unfortunately your suppositions, dear AfanAsy Afandsje- 
vitch, are wrong. Not only am I not at work, but the reason I 
failed to answer you was because I have been ill all this time. 
Lately I have even been in bed for some days. A chill in 
various forms : teeth and side, and the result is that time goes 
by — my best time — and I do no work. 

Then follows a touch showing how, in many matters, his 
wife'*s mind was still attuned to his own, though she was not 
sharing his spiritual struggles, and in the matter of the 
education of the children there was already some disagree- 
ment between them : 


On reading it I said to my wife, * Fet's poem is charming, but 
there is one word that is wrong/ She was nursing and bustling 
about at the time ; but at tea, having quieted down, she took up 
the poem to read, and at once pointed out the words ' as the 
Gods ' — which I considered bad. 

On 26th March 1878 he writes to Fet : 

Last week, after seventeen years' absence, I went to Peters- 
burg to purchase some land in SamAra from General B. . . . 

There I saw a pair of Orl6f Generals who made me shudder : 
it was just as though one were standing between two sets of 
rails with goods trains passing. To enter into the minds of 
these Generals, I have to recall the rare days of drunkenness 
I have experienced, or the days of my very earliest childhood. 

After completing Anna Kar6nina Tolstoy again took up 
The Decembrists, which he had put aside in favour of War 
and Peace fourteen years before. As already mentioned, a 
second cousin of Tolstoy's mother, Prince S. G. Volkdnsky, 
had been a prominent Decembrist ; and Tolstoy had at his 
disposal a number of family diaries and journals throwing 
much light on the subject of that conspiracy. While in 
Petersburg he made personal acquaintance with some of the 
survivors of the movement, and also applied to the Com- 
mandant of the Petropavlof Fortress — who happened to 
be an officer under whom he had served in the Crimea — for 
permission to see the Alexis dungeons, in which the Decem- 
brists had been confined. The Commandant received him 
very politely, allowed him to see over other parts of the 
fortress, but told him that, though any one could enter the 
dungeons, only three persons in the whole Empire — the 
Emperor, the Commandant, and the Chief of the Gendarmes 
— having once entered them, could again leave them. 

Finally, after writing three fragments of it, Tolstoy 
abandoned this novel, to which he had devoted much 
time. The subject was one he could hardly have dealt 
with frankly without getting into trouble with the Censor ; 
and he had been refused permission to study the State 

1870-1878 887 

Archives ; but in the following passage Behrs gives another, 
and a curiously characteristic, reason for Tolstoy"*s decision : 

He afBrmed that the Decembrist insurrection was a result 
of the influence of French nobles, a large number of whom had 
emigrated to Russia after the French Revolution. As tutors 
in aristocratic families, they educated the whole Russian 
nohility, which explains the fact that many of the Decembrists 
were Catholics. The belief that the movement was due to 
foreign influence^ and was not a purely national one, sufficed to 
prevent Tolstoy from sympathising with it. 

Another letter to Fet again shows the direction in which 
Tolstoy's mind was working : 

6 April 1878. 

I have received your delightful and long letter, dear Afan&sy 
Afandsyevitch. Do not praise me. Really you see in me too 
much good, and in others too much bad. One thing in me is 
good: that I understand you and therefore love you. But 
though I love you as you are, I am always angry with you for 
this, that ' Martha is anxious about many things ; but one thing 
is needful.' And in you that one thing is very strong, but 
somehow you disdain it and are more concerned about arrang- 
ing a billiard room. Don't suppose that I refer to poems : though 
I expect them to come too ! But it is not of them I speak ; 
they will come in spite of the billiards ; I am speaking of a con- 
ception of the world which would make it unnecessary to be 
angry at the stupidity of mortals. Were you and I to be pounded 
together in a mortar and moulded into two people, we should 
make a capital pair. But at present you are so attached to 
the things of this life, that should they some day fail you, it 
will go hard with you ; while I am so indifferent to them, that 
life becomes uninteresting, and I depress others by an eternal 
pouring ' from void into vacuum ' ! Do not suppose that I have 
gone mad ; I am merely out of sorts, but hope you will love me 
though I be black. 

The prolonged mental struggle through which Tolstoy 
passed with great suffering during the years 1874-78, was 
quite evident to those about him, at least from 1876 onward. 


Not merely did he go regularly to church, and shut himself 
up in his study morning and evening to pray, but his 
former high spirits subsided, and his desire to bea)me meek 
and humble was plainly noticeable. One result of his 
altered attitude was, that he felt keenly that it was wrong 
to have an enemy. Accordingly he wrote Tourg^nef to 
that effect, and held out to him the right hand of friendship. 

To this Tourgenef replied : 

Paris, 8 May 1878. 

Dear Lko NikolIykvitch, — I only to-day received yoar letter, 
addressed poste-restanie. It gladdened and touched me very 
much. With the greatest readiness will I renew our former 
friendship, and I warmly press the hand you hold out to me. 
You are quite right in supposing me to have no hostile 
feelings towards you. If ever they existed they have long 
since disappeared, and the recollection of you only remains as 
of a man to whom I am sincerely attached, and of a writer 
whose first steps it was my good fortune to be the first to hail, 
and each new work from whom has always aroused in me the 
liveliest interest. I am heartily glad of the cessation of the 
misunderstandings that arose between us. 

I hope this summer to be in the Government of Orl6f, and in 
that case we shall of course see one another. Till then, I wish 
you all that is good, and once more press your hand in friendship. 

On 13th June, on the point of starting for Samdra, 
Tolstoy writes to Fet : 

I have seldom so enjoyed a summer as this year, but a week 
ago I caught cold and fell ill, and only to-day have I come to 
life again. 

Hardly were the Tolstoys back from Samdra in August, 
before Tourgenef wrote from Moscow that he would be in 
Toiila on the following Monday. Tolstoy, accompanied by 
his brother-in-law, drove thither to meet him, and brought 
him to Ydsnaya, where he passed a couple of days. 

A lady who was there at the time, tells us that the two 
writers spent most of their time in philosophic and religious 
conversation in Tolstoy's study, but : 

1870-1878 889 

When they came out into the sitting-room their conversation 
became general and took a difTerent turn. Tourgenef told 
with pleasure of the villa Boujeval which he had just bought 
near Paris, and of its comfort and arrangements, saying, * We 
have built a charming conservatory, costing ten thousand 
francs,' and ' we ' did so-and-so and so-and-so, meaning by * we,' 
the Viardot family and himself. 

' Of an evening we often play vint [a game similar to bridge] 
— do you ? ' he asked Tolstoy. 

' No, we never play cards,' replied the G)unt, and turned the 
conversation to another topic. 

Knowing that he was fond of chess, the Countess Tolstoy 
asked him to play a game with her eldest sou, a lad of fifteen^ 
saying, ' He will all his life remember having played with 

Tourgenef condescendingly agreed, and began a game, while 
continuing to talk to us. 

* In Paris I often used to play chess and was considered a 
good player. They called me le chevalier de pion, I am fond 
of pawns. . . . Do you know the new phrase now in fashion 
among the French — vieux jeu ? Whatever you say, a French- 
man replies, " Vieujc jeu I"' 

' Eh ! but one must not joke with you,' he exclaimed suddenly, 
turning to his youthful opponent. ' You have all but done for 

And he began to play carefully, and only won the game with 
difficulty, for young Tolstoy really played chess excellently.^ 

' Why don't you smoke ? ' said Tolstoy ; ' you used to.' 

' Yes,' replied Tourgenef; ' but in Paris there are two charm- 
ing young ladies who have told me that if I smell of tobacco 
they won't allow me to kiss them, so I have given up smoking.' 

At evening tea Tourgenef told how he had played the part 
of a satyr at M™" Viardot's private theatricals, and how some 
of the audience had gazed at him with amazement. We knew 
that he hatl himself written the piece (a sort of operetta) 
for those theatricals, and knew also that Russians, both 
abroad and at home, disapproved of his playing the fool for 

^ In later years Scrgius L. Tolstoy won a correspondence game from 
Tchig(Srin when the latter was the Russian chess champion. 


M"« Viardot's amusement ; and we all felt uncomfortable. In 
telling it he seemed to be trying to justify himself, but he soon 
passed on to another theme, and we breathed more freely. 

He had the gift of words and spoke readily and smoothly^ 
but seemed to prefer narrating to conversing. He told us 
of his confinement in the Hauptwerk of the Spdssky Police- 
station in Petersburg, for his article on the death of G6gol^ 
and he described how dull it was. ... 

Tolstoy also narrated, and I liked his stories better : they 
were more strongly sketched, often humorous, and always 
original. In them much was simple, unexpected and touching. 
• . . I. S. Aks^of used to say, with reference to Tolstoy's 
gigantic power, that he had ' a bear-like talent,' and I will add 
that his soul is as meek * as a dove,' and as enthusiastic as a 
youth ; and that the union of those two qualities explains the 
new direction he has since taken, a direction which so dis- 
tressed Tourgenef. 

An hour before midnight Tourgenef rose. 

' It is time for me to go to the station/ said he. 

We all rose. The railway station was one-and-a-half miles 
away^ and Count Leo NikoUyevitch drove with him, to see him 

Behrs also writes of the same visit : 

At dinner Tourgenef told many stories, and to the delight of 
the younger folk mimicked not only persons, but animals also. 
Thus, placing one hand under the other, he depicted a fowl 
waddling in the oo-p, and then imitated a hunting dog at a 
loss. As I listened to him and watched his tricks I couldn't 
help thinking that he evidently inherited something of the 
talent for which one of his ancestors under Peter the Great 
enjoyed no little fame. 

This was the last summer Behrs, now a young man of 
twenty-three, passed with Tolstoy before taking up oflficial 
work in the Caucasus. His evidence fully supports that 
of others who have seen Tolstoy in contact with children, 
peasants or native races: to all of these Tolstoy extends 
his charm of comprehension, consideration, and sympathy. 

1870-1878 891 

Whenever Tolstoy went out with his gun and his dogs, 
Behrs used to accompany him; and together they would 
ride twenty-four miles from Ydsnaya to visit Count Sergius 
Tolstoy at Pirogovo. Leo Tolstoy took his brother-in- 
law on these visits, Behrs says, *for my sake, if not for 
his own, since he knew what pleasure it gave me to be 
with him/ The remark he made when he heard that 
Behrs had obtained an official appointment in the Caucasus 
is characteristic : * You are too late for the Caucasus. The 
whole country already stinks of officials." Characteristic 
too of the feeling Tolstoy inspires among those who know 
him most intimately, is Behrs's concluding remark : ^ I at 
least am aware of nothing in his life that needs to be con- 

At the beginning of September Tourgenef, on his return 
from his estate, again visited Ydsnaya. One sees by a 
letter to Fet on 5th September that Tolstoy still found 
himself unable to be quite intimate with his fellow novelist. 

. . . You refer to your article. Please do not attribute im- 
portance to my criticism : (1) because I am a bad judge of what 
I hear read^ but have not myself read ; and (2) because I was, 
that day, physically in the worst state of mind. When you 
revise the article, do not forget to amend the method of con- 
necting the different parts. You often use superfluous ex- 
pressions, such as, ' Now let us turn . . .' or ' Let us look . . .' 
etc. The chief thing, of course, is to get the different parts 
into good focus ; when they are rightly placed all that is un- 
necessary and superfluous drops out, and the whole gains 

Tourgenef on his return journey came to see us and was 
glad to receive your letter. He is still the same, and we know 
the degree of nearness possible between us. 

I have a terrible desire to write something, but feel a de- 
pressing doubt whether this is a false or a true appetite. 

The last sentence must refer to the Confession^ most of 
which was not written till the next year. 


Apparently Tolstoy, while in bad spirits, wrote to 
Tourgenef, for the latter replies in September, saying : * I 
am glad you are all physically well, and hope the " mental 
sickness^" of which you write has now passed/ He then 
goes on to defend himself from the suspicion of having ever 
ridiculed Tolstoy's writings, and concludes by saying : 

I thought you had long since got rid of such 'reflexive' 
feelings. Why are they current only among authors, and not 
among musicians, painters, and other artists ? Probably because 
in literary work more of that part of the soul is exposed, which 
it is not quite convenient to show. But at our (already mature) 
age as authors, it is time we were accustomed to it 

This evidently displeased Tolstoy, as one of the follow- 
ing letters shows. He had written to Fet in October : 

I do not know how or in what spirit to begin to write to you, 
dear Afanasy Afanasyevitch ; any way, there are no words for 
it but, ' I am to blame, I am to blame, and I am altogether to 
blame ! ' Though it is always superfluous for apologisers to 
explain their reasons, I will yet write mine because they are 
true and explain my condition. For a month past, if not 
more, I have been living amid the fumes not of external occur- 
rences (on the contrary we are by ourselves, living quietly) but 
of what is going on inside : something I know not how to name. 
I go out shooting, read, reply to questions put to me, eat, and 
sleep, but can do nothing, not even write a letter, a score of 
which have collected. 

And now, after receiving Tourgencrs letter, he writes 
again to Fet, expressing vexation with Tourgenef (who 
apparently had not intended to give any offence) : 

22 Nooemher 1878. 
Dear AfanAsv AfanjCsyevitch, — I will go to Moscow and 
have ' I am to blame ' printed on my notepaper. But I don't 
think I am to blame for not replying to the letter in which you 
promised to come and see us. I remember my joy at that news, 
and that I replied immediately. If not, still please don't punish 
me, but come. . . . 

1870-1878 898 

Yesterday I received a letter from Tourg6nef ; and do you 
know, I have decided that it will be better to keep further 
away from him and from sin [A common Russian saying]. He 
is an unpleasant sort of quarrel-maker. 

My congratulations to you on your birthday. I will not in 
future omit to congratulate you on the 23rd, and hope not to 
forget it for the next dozen times. That will be enough for 
either of us. Au revoir ! 

Fet was destined to live four years beyond the span 
Tolstoy allotted him, and Tolstoy himself is still with us, 
though nearly thirty years have passed since that letter was 
written ; and what a strenuous thirty years they have been ! 
How he has wrestled with life"*s greatest problems one after 
another, and how he has flung down before the world his 
opinions (right, wrong, or motley) on dogmatic theology, 
Christ^s Christianity, religion in geneiul, economic and social 
problems, famine, the employment of violence, war, con- 
scription. Government, patriotism, the sex problem, art, 
science, food-reform and the use of stimulants and narcotics, 
besides producing a series of simple stories for the people, 
as well as more complex ones for the rest of society, three 
plays, one great novel, and a stream of weighty and interest- 
ing essays and letters which have poured forth from Ydsnaya 
in an increasing stream as the years went by ; not to mention 
works kept back for posthumous publication, at the mention 
of which the literary world pricks up its ears ! 

On 1st October 1878 Tourgenef wrote to Fet from 
Uoujeval, again saying that he intended to translate The 
Cossacks into French, and adding, *It will give me great 
pleasure to assist in acquainting the French public with the 
best story that has been written in our language.'* 

In another letter from Boujcval in December, he 
rcmai'ked : 

I was very glad to come together with Tolstoy, and I spent 
three pleasant days with him ; his whole family are very 
sympathetic, and his wife is charming. He has grown very 


quiet and has matured. His name begins to gain European 
celebrity : we Russians have long known that he has no riTals. 

The course of the story has swept me a little past 
Tolstoy's fiftieth birthday — the point at which I intended 
to close this first part of my work. Besides giving some 
brief survey of his writings during his first twenty-five years 
of authorship, all that now remains is to give a summary 
of that remarkable work, his Confession, which shows us 
vividly, though no doubt with some amount of artistic 
heightening, what had been going on in his mind and soul 
from 1874 to 1879, the year in which it was written. 

By way of brief preface to his Confession^ it will be in 
place to say a few words about two different tendencies 
which, each in its own way, influenced Tolstoy. On the 
one hand there was the religious life of the people, with all 
its Medieval traditions. Tolstoy had only to go a short 
walk from his house to reach the highroad, on which pil- 
grims going afoot to the shrines of the Saints could always 
be met; and he had many a conversation with these pil- 
grims at the rest-house they frequented. Among them there 
were many to whom the things of this world were certainly 
less precious than obedience to the will of God as they 
understood it ; and Tolstoy's stories show us how closely he 
observed these people, and how near some of them came to 
his soul. On the other hand he was influenced by the 
ciuite modem and very remarkable movement that was at 
this time beginning to make itself felt in Russia ; a move- 
ment having its roots in conditions of life which greatly 
disturbed Tolstoy's own mind, and which took as one of 
its watchwords the motto ' Towards the People^ — a senti- 
ment quite in harmony with his own attitude. 

In 1875 public attention was aroused by the trial of the 
Dolgoiishin group of propagandists ; and the trial of ' The 
Moscow 50," in March 1877, revealed the fact that a number 
of girls of wealthy families were voluntarily leading the life 
of factory hands working fourteen hours a day in over- 
crowded factories, that they might come into touch with 

1870-1878 895 

working people, to teach them, and to carry on a social 
and political propaganda among them. Then followed the 
historic trial of * The 193 ' in 1878. 

These and many other indications showed that in spite of 
the repressive measures of the Government, a steadily in- 
creasing number of Russians felt (what Tolstoy also felt 
strongly) that the existing order of society results in the 
mass of the people having to live in conditions of blighting 
ignorance and grinding poverty ; while the parasitic minority 
who live in plenty and sometimes in extravagant super- 
fluity, render no service at all equivalent to the cost of their 
maintenance. The mere statement that those who had 
received an education, thanks to the work of the masses, 
owe service to the masses in return, sufficed to rouse to 
action some of the young men and women of that day. 
They left their wealthy homes, lived the simplest lives, ran 
fearful risks, and according to their lights — sometimes not 
very clear ones — devoted themselves to the service of the 

While this was going on around him, a man with such 
a temperament as Tolstoy's, could not be at rest. 

Already in 1875 Mihaylovsky had published a remarkable 
series of articles on Tlie Biffht and Left Hand of Count 
Tolstoy^ in which he pointed out that that author's works 
reveal the clash of contrary ideals and tendencies in the 
writer's soul, and that especially his educational articles 
contain ideas quite in conflict with certain tendencies 
noticeable in War and Peace. With remarkable prevision 
Mihaylovsky predicted an inevitable crisis in Tolstoy's life, 
and added : 

One asks oneself what such a man is to do^ and how he is to 
live ? . . . I think an ordinary man in such a position would end 
by suicide or drunkenness ; but a man of worth will seek for 
other issues — and of these there are several. 

One of these he suggested would be, to write for the people 
(Tolstoy's Readers had already been published) or to write so 


as to remind ^ Society^ that its pleasures and amusements 
are not those of the mass of mankind, and thus to arouse 
the latent feelings of justice in some who now forget the 
debt they owe to their fellows. 

In fact, the trial of ^The 193^ or the movement from 
which it arose, had a vital, though indirect, influence on 
Tolstoy, who at this time had engaged V. G. Alexeyef, 
a graduate of Petersburg University, as mathematical 
master for his son. Alexeyef had been a member of the 
Tchayk()vsky group which carried on an educational propa- 
ganda in elementary Socialism in the early T'O's. The 
activities of this group were so restricted, and they were so 
hampered by the police, that some of its members, feeling 
a need of freer activity, migrated to Kansas, where for two 
years they carried on an agricultural colony. Dissensions 
arose among them, and their experiment failed. Alexdyef 
returned to Russia ; Tchaykovsky settled in England. Tol- 
stoy soon saw that Alexeyef was a man who shaped his life 
in accord with his beliefs, and he respected him accordingly, 
and through him made acquaintance with some of the best 
representatives of the immature Socialist movement then 
brewing in Russia, We have here a remarkable example of 
the indirect way in which thoughts influence the world. 
Augustc Conitc wrote a philosophy. Having filtered through 
the minds of G. H. Lewes and J. S. Mill, it reached Nicholas 
TchaykcWsky when he was a schoolboy of fourteen in the 
Seventh Gynmasium in Petersburg. ' It fascinated me to 
such an extent,' says he in the reminiscences conti-ibuted to 
G. H. Perris's interesting book, Russia in Bevolutioiiy ' that, 
while sitting in school, I longed to get back to our lodgings 
and to my chosen reading. The more I progressed, the more 
I was absorbed. This study powerfully affected my mind 
and systematised my ideas.** A few years later TchaykcSvsky, 
having ix?ad much meanwhile, formed his group, which 
sowed the seeds of clianges yet to come. Pix)gi*ess, however, 
was very slow, and he felt ' the ineffectiveness of ordinary 
political and socialistic propaganda among a deeply religious 

1870-1878 897 

peasantry, still hopeful of benefits from above.'* This 
forced him to reconsider the whole situation. *I met,' 
adds he, *some friends with whom I began to work upon 
the rather Utopian idea of formulating a new religion, 
and, for the sake of more effective experiment, we were 
soon compelled to transfer ourselves with this stupendous 
mission, to the steppes of Kansas.' 

Wishing to transform society, TchaykcSvsky had seen the 
need of some systematic outlook on life — * a new religion,' in 
fact. Dissatisfied with his own outlook on life, Tolstoy 
was seeking a new religion, and when he found it, it led 
him to demand great changes in society. The mature 
novelist and the young propagandist, who have never met in 
the flesh, had therefore much in common ; though Tolstoy 
dislikes the works of Comte and Mill, which had done so 
much for Tchaykdvsky, and can hardly speak of them with 
tolerance (except Mill's Autobiography ^ which interests him). 
Detesting the methods of violence to which those who 
succeeded Tchaykdvsky felt themselves driven, Tolstoy could 
still not doubt the sincerity of the faith that actuated most 
of them ; for they had all to lose and nothing to gain by 
joining the revolutionary movement. Sophie Perdvsky, 
one of 'the 193' (subsequently hanged in Petersburg for 
taking part in the assassination of Alexander II), was the 
daughter of the Governor-General of that city, and was a 
niece of the Minister of Education. Demetrius Lisogoub, 
a landowner, devoted his whole fortune of some d£^40,000 to 
the movement; and was hanged in Odessa. Prince Peter 
Kropdtkin risked his all to give lessons to workmen ; and 
escaped abroad, having lost position, fortune, and the right 
to live in his native land. Tolstoy, an older man, with a 
strong character and definite views of his own on many 
points, could not join the Socialist movement, but that he 
was influenced by it is beyond doubt. 

The state of Russian life was indeed such that men of sen- 
sitive consciences could not be at rest (as, indeed, when and 
where in the wide world can they ?), and the work Tolstoy 


had already done, marked him out as one in whose soul the 
struggle which was moving others, would assuredly be 
fought out strenuously. No one however, and certainly not 
he himself, as yet knew what effect that crisis would have 
upon him, or what his course of life would be in the years 
that were to come. 


Besides books mentioned in last chapter^ information relating to 
this period is contained in a number of magazines and newspaper 
articles^ of which the following are the most important. 

On the Education dispute see : 
Moskov. EparhiaL Ved., October 1874. 
Rousskiya Vedamoiti, 1894, No. 31. 
N. K. Mihaylovsky's ZapUki I^/ana, and 

E. Schujler in Rousttkaya Starina, October 1870, and in Scrihner's 
Magazine, May and June, 1889. 

About War and Peace see : 

V. Solovyef in Nim, 1879, No. 43 ; and 

Dragomirof in Orouzh, Sbomik,, 1802, No. 4. 

About Samara Famine, etc. , see : 

A. S. Prougaviu in Obnizovamye, Nov. 1902. 

On Tourgenefs visit to Yasnaya see : 
Tobolskiya Gouhem, Vedomosti, 1893, No. 20. 

The Rousskoye Obozreniye, 1890, contains a letter from Tolstoy to 

The Vestnik Etirop, June 1904, contains M. Zabarina's Vospomin- 

aniya gr. A. A. Toltstaya, 

Zhisn P. /. Tschaikovskaf^, 



^Vhat is the meaning of life ? Thoughts of suicide. The 
traveller in the well. Schopenhauer and Solomon. Four 
ways of meeting the problem. The peasants' answer. The 
finite linked to the infinite. Faith essential. Faiths that 
obscure. Why life seemed meaningless. The search for 
God. The infallibility of the Church. Rites and prayers. 
Communion. The lives of the Saints. The Orthodox and the 
Sectarians. War. The need to unravel truth from error. 

This chapter is a summary of Tolstoy^s Confession^ or 
* Introduction to a Criticism of Dogmatic Theology and to 
an Investigation of the Christian Teachings,^ as the Russian 
title ran, from the first pages of which I have already quoted 
freely in the preceding chapters. I have kept as much to 
Tolstoy's words as possible, but having to condense, I have 
not only omitted much, but have also paraphrased some 
passages to avoid repetition. The plan I have adopted, 
since this is a Life and not a theological treatise, has been 
to cut down to a mere skeleton the abstract argument of 
Tolstoy's Confession^ while giving almost in full what he 
says about his own experience. 

Many men, at the age of puberty, or at any rate while 
their minds were still maturing, have experienced the change 
known as * Conversion.' That is to say, they have more or 
less suddenly turned round and looked at life from a fresh 

^ It is stran{;e that Tolstoy's Confession has not yet been put into English 
at all reproducing the vigorous simplicity of the original. There is, I think, 
nothing better than the threepenny edition issued by the Free Age Press 
under the title, How I Came to Believe ; and on looking at that to see if I 
could quote from it, I find that it is not good enough. 



point of view : what in their nature had been latent or 
secondary has become dominant and primary, and things 
temporal and material have become subordinate to things 
spiritual and eternal. 

What is unusual about the story of Tolstoy^s conversion 
is that it came so late in life and so gradually, and that 
the intellect played so large a part in it. 

Some men take to religion at the prompting of the heart, 
others at the prompting of the brain ; and Tolstoy belongs to 
the latter category, not from lack of heart, but because strong 
as are his emotions, his intellectual power is stronger still. 

His Confession was written in 1879, and in it he says : 

Five years ago something very strange began to happen 
to me : At first I experienced moments of perplexity and 
arrest of life, as though I did not know how to live or what 
to do ; and I felt lost and became dejected. But this passed, 
and I went on living as before. Then these moments of 
perplexity began to recur oftener and oftener, and always 
in the same form. They were always expressed by the 
questions : What's it for ? What does it lead to ? 

At first it seemed to me that these were aimless and 
iiTelevant questions. I thought that it was all well known, 
and that if I should ever wish to deal with the solution, it 
would not cost me much effort ; just at present I had no 
time for it, but when I wanted to I should be able to find 
the answer. The questions, however, began to repeat them- 
selves frequently, and more and more insistently to demand 
replies; and like drops of ink always falling on one place, 
they ran together into one black blot. 

That occurred which happens to every one sickening with 
a mortal internal disease. At first trivial signs of indis- 
position appear, to which the sick man pays no attention; 
then these signs reappear more and more often, and merge 
into one uninterrupted period of suffering. The suffering 
increases, and before the sick man can look round, what he 
took for a mere indisposition has already become more impor- 
tant to him than anything else in the world — it is death ! 


That was what happened to me. I understood that it 
was no casual indisposition, but something very important, 
and that if these questions constantly repeated themselves, 
it would be necessary to answer them. And I tried to do 
so. The questions seemed such stupid simple childish 
questions ; but as soon as I touched them and tried to solve 
them, I at once became convinced (1) that they are not 
childish and stupid, but the most important and the deepest 
of life's questions ; and (2) that, try as I would, I could not 
solve them. Before occupying myself with my Samara 
estate, the education of my son, or the writing of a book, 
I had to know why I was doing it. As long as I did not 
know why, I could do nothing, and could not live. Amid 
the thoughts of estate management which greatly occupied 
me at that time, the question would suddenly occur to me : 
' Well, you will have 16,000 acres of land in Samdra Govern- 
ment and 300 horses, and what next?' . . . And I was 
quite disconcerted, and did not know what to think. Or, 
when considering my plans for the education of my children, 
I would say to myself: What for? Or when considering 
how the peasants might be prosperous, I suddenly said to 
myself, * But what business is it of mine ? ' Or when think- 
ing of the fame my works would bring me, I said to myself, 
* Very well : you will be more famous than Gogol or 
Poiishkin or Shakespear or Moliere, or than all the writers 
in the world — and what will it lead to?' And I could 
find no reply at all. The questions would not wait, they 
had to be answered at once, and if I did not answer them, it 
was impossible to live. But there was no answer. 

I felt that what I had been standing on had broken down, 
and that I had nothing left under my feet. What I had 
lived on, no longer existed ; and I had nothing left to live on. 

My life came to a standstill. I could breathe, eat, drink 
and sleep, and I could not help doing these things; but 
there was no life, for there were no wishes the fulfilment of 
which I could consider reasonable. . . . Had a fairy come 
and offered to fulfil my desires, I should not have known 



what to ask. ... If in moments of intoxication I felt 
something which I cannot call a wish, but a habit left by 
former wishes, in sober moments I knew this to be a 
delusion, and that there is really nothing to wish for. I 
could not even wish to know the truth, for I guessed in 
what it consisted. The truth was that life is meaningless. 
I had, as it were, lived, lived, and walked, walked, till I had 
come to a precipice and saw clearly that there was nothing 
ahead of me but destruction. It was impossible to stop, 
impossible to go back, and impossible to close my eyes or 
avoid seeing that there was nothing ahead but suffering and 
real death — complete annihilation. 

It had come to this, that I, a healthy, fortunate man, felt I 
could no longer live : some irresistible power impelled me to 
rid myself one way or other of life. I cannot say I wished to 
kill myself. The power which drew me away from life was 
stronger, fuller, and more widespread than any mere wish. 

The thought of self-destruction now came to me as 
naturally as thoughts of how to improve my life had come 
formerly. And it was so seductive that I had to be wily 
with myself, lest I should carry it out too hastily : * If I 
cannot unravel matters, there will always be time.** And it 
was then that I, a man favoured by fortune, hid a cord 
from myself, lest I should hang myself from the crosspiece 
of the partition in my room, where I undressed alone every 
evening ; and I ceased to go out shooting with a gun, lest 
I should be tempted by so easy a way of ending my life. 
I did not myself know what I wanted : I feared life, desired 
to escape from it ; yet still hoped something of it. 

And all this befell me at a time when all around me I 
had what is considered complete good fortune. I was not 
yet fifty ; I had a good wife who loved me and whom I 
loved ; good children, and a large estate which without much 
effort on my part improved and increased. I was respected 
by my relations and acquaintances more than at any previous 
time. I was praised by others, and witliout much self- 
deception could consider that my name was famous. And 

Tolstoy's Library. 



far from being insane or mentally unwell,— on the contrary 
I enjoyed a strength of mind and body such as I have 
seldom met with among men of my kind : physically I 
could keep up with the peasants at mowing, and mentally 
I could work for eight to ten hours at a stretch without 
experiencing any ill results from such exertion. . . . 

My mental condition presented itself to me in this way : 
my life is a stupid and spiteful joke some one has played 
on me. Though I did not acknowledge a ' some one ^ who 
created me, yet that form of representation — that some one 
had played an evil and stupid joke on me by placing me 
in the world — was the form of expression that suggested 
itself most naturally to me. 

Involuntarily it appeared to me that there, somewhere, 
is some one who amuses himself by watching how I live for 
thirty or forty years: learning, developing, maturing in 
body and mind, and how — having now with matured mental 
powers reached the summit of life, from which it all lies 
before me, I stand on that summit — like an arch-fool — 
seeing clearly that there is nothing in life, and that there 
has been and will be nothing. And he is amused. . . . 

But whether that *some one^ laughing at me existed or not, 
I was none the better off. I could give no reasonable mean- 
ing to any single action, or to my whole life. I was only 
surprised that I could have avoided understanding this from 
the very beginning — it has been so long known to all. To- 
day or to-morrow sickness and death will come (they have 
come already) to those I love or to me ; nothing will remain 
but stench and worms. Sooner or later my deeds, whatever 
they may have been, will be forgotten, and I shall not exist. 
Then why go on making any effort? . . . How can man 
fail to see this? And how go on living? That is what is 
surprising ! One can only live when one is intoxicated with 
life ; as soon as one is sober it is impossible not to see that 
it is all a mere fraud and a stupid fraud ! That is precisely 
what it is : there is nothing either amusing or witty about 
it ; it is simply cruel and stupid. 


There is an Eastern fable, told long ago, of a traveller 
overtaken on a plain by an enraged beast. Escaping from 
the beast he leaps into a dry well, but sees at the bottom of 
the well a dragon that has opened its jaws to swallow him. 
And the unfortunate man, not daring to climb out lest he 
should be destroyed by the enraged beast, and not daring 
to leap to the bottom of the well lest he should be eaten by 
the dragon, seizes a twig growing in a crack in the well and 
clings to it. His hands are growing weaker, and he feels he 
will soon have to resign himself to the destruction that 
awaits him above or below ; but still he clings on ; and he 
sees that two mice, a black and a white one, go regularly 
round and round the stem of the twig to which he is 
clinging, and gnaw at it. And soon the twig itself will 
snap and he will fall into the dragon's jaws. The traveller 
sees this and knows that he will inevitably perish ; but 
while still hanging he looks around and finds some drops 
of honey on the leaves of the twig and reaches them with 
his tongue and licks them. So I too clung to the twig of 
life, knowing that the dragon of death was inevitably aw€dt- 
ing me, ready to tear me to pieces ; and I could not under- 
stand why I had fallen into such torment. I tried to 
lick the honey which formerly consoled me ; but the honey 
no longer gave me pleasure, and the white and black mice 
of day and night gnawed at the branch by which I hung. 
I saw the dragon clearly, and the honey no longer tasted 
sweet. And this is not a fable, but the real unanswerable 
truth intelligible to all. 

The deception of the joys of life which formerly allayed 
my terror of the dragon, now no longer deceives me. No 
matter how much I may be told : ' You cannot understand 
the meaning of life, so do not think about it, but live,' 
I can no longer do it : I have already done it too long. 
I cannot now help seeing day and night going round and 
bringing me to death. That is all I see, for that alone 
is true. All else is false. 

The two drops of honey which diverted my eyes from 


the cruel truth longer than the rest : my love of family, and 
of writing — art as I called it — were no longer sweet to me. 

Family . . . said I to myself. But my family : wife and 
children — are also human. They too are placed as I am : 
they must either live in a lie, or see the terrible truth. 
Why should they live ? Why should I love them, guard 
them, bring them up, or watch them ? That they may come 
to the despair that I feel, or else be stupid ? Loving them, 
I cannot hide the truth from them : each step in knowledge 
leads them to that truth. And the truth is death. 

* Art, poetry .? ' . . . Under the influence of success and 
the praise of men, I had long assured myself that this was 
a thing one could do though death was drawing near — 
death which destroys all things, including my work and its 
remembrance ; but I soon saw that that too was a fraud. 
It was*plain to me that art is an adornment to life, an 
allurement to life. But life had lost its attraction for me; 
so how could I attract others ? As long as I was not living 
my own life, but was borne on the waves of some other life — 
as long as I believed that life had a meaning, though one 
I could not express — the reflection of life in poetry and art 
of all kinds, afibrdcd me pleasure : it was pleasant to look 
at life in the mirror of art. But when I began to seek the 
meaning of life, and felt the necessity of living on my own 
account, that mirror became for me unnecessary, superfluous, 
ridiculous, or painful. I could no longer soothe myself with 
what I saw in the mirror, for what I saw was, that my 
position was stupid and desperate. It was all very well to 
enjoy the sight when in the depth of my soul I believed 
that my life had a meaning. Then the play of lights — 
comic, tragic, touching, beautiful and terrible — in life, 
amused me. But when I knew life to be meaningless and 
terrible, the play in the mirror could no longer amuse me. 
No sweetness of honey could be sweet to me when I saw 
the dragon, and saw the mice gnawing away my support. 

Nor was that all. Had I simply understood that life has 
no meaning, I could have borne it quietly, knowing that 


that was my lot. But I could not satisfy myself with that. 
Had I been like a man living in a wood from which he 
knows there is no exit, I could have lived ; but I was like 
one lost in a wood who, horrified at having lost his way, 
rushes about, wishing to find the road, yet knows that each 
step he takes confuses him more and more ; and still can- 
not help rushing about. 

It was indeed terrible. And to rid myself of the terror, I 
wished to kill myself. I experienced terror at what awaited 
me — knew that that terror was even worse than the position 
I was in ; but still I could not patiently await the end. 
However convincing the argument might be that, in any 
case, some vessel in my heart would give way, or something 
would burst and all would be over, I could not patiently 
await that end. The horror of darkness was too great, and 
I wished to free myself from it as quickly as possible by 
noose or bullet. That was the feeling which drew me most 
strongly towards suicide. 

^ But perhaps I have overlooked something, or misunder- 
stood something ? It cannot be that this condition of de- 
spair is natural to man ! ^ thought I, and as a perishing man 
seeks safety, I sought some way of escape. 

I sought everywhere; and thanks to a life spent in learning, 
and thanks also to the relations I had with the scholarly 
world, I had access to scientists and scholars in all branches 
of knowledge, and they readily showed me all tlieir know- 
ledge, not only in books, but also in conversation, so that 
I had at my disposal all that knowledge has to say on this 
question of life. . . . 

The question which at the age of fifty brought me to the 
verge of suicide, was the simplest of questions lying in the 
soul of every man, from the foolish child to the wisest elder : 
it was a question without answering which one cannot live, as 
I had found by experience. It was. What will come of what 
I am doing to-day or shall do to-morrow — What will come 
of my whole life ? 


DiflTerently expressed, the question is : Why should I live, 
why wish for anything, or do anything ? It can also be ex- 
pressed thus : Is there any meaning in life, that the inevit- 
able death awaiting one, does not destroy ? All human 
knowledge I found divided into two kinds. One kind, such 
as chemistry and mathematics and the exact sciences, did 
not deal with my question. They were interesting, attrac- 
tive, and wonderfully definite, but made no attempt to 
solve the question ; while on the other hand the speculative 
sciences, culminating in metaphysics, dealt with the question, 
but supplied no satisfactory answer. 

Where philosophy does not lose sight of the essential 
question, its answer is always one and the same : an answer 
given by Socrates, Schopenhauer, Solomon and Buddha. 

*We approach truth only inasmuch as we depart from 
life,' said Socrates when preparing for death. ^ For what do 
we who love truth, strive after in life ? To free ourselves 
from the body, and from all the evil that is caused by the 
body ! If so, then how can we fail to be glad when death 
comes to us ? ' 

^ The wise man seeks death all his life, and therefore does 
not fear death.' 

And Schopenhauer also says that life is an evil ; and 
Solomon (or whoever wrote the works attributed to him) 
says : 

* Vanity of vanities, all is vanity. What profit hath man 
of all his labour under the sun ? . . . There is no remem- 
brance of former things, neither shall there be any re- 
membrance of things that are to come, with those that shall 
come after. . . . 

* Therefore I hated life, because the work that is wrought 
under the sun is grievous to me ; for all is vanity and vexa- 
tion of spirit.' 

And Sakya Muni when he learnt what age and sickness 
and death are, could find no consolation in life, and decided 
that life is the greatest of evils; and he devoted all the 
strength of his soul to free himself from it, and to free 


others ; and to do this so that even after death life shall not 
be renewed any more, but be completely destroyed at its 
very roots. So speaks all the wisdom of India. 

These then are the direct replies that human wisdom 
gives, when it replies to the question of life : 

* The life of the body is an evil and a lie. Therefore the 
destruction of the life of the body is a blessing, and we 
should desire it,^ says Socrates. 

^ Life is that which should not be — an evil ; and the 
passage into Nothingness is the only good in life,^ says 

* All that is in the world : folly and wisdom and riches 
and poverty and mirth and grief — are vanity and emptiness. 
Man dies and nothing is left of him. And that is stupid," 
says Solomon. 

' To live in the consciousness of the inevitability of suffer- 
ing, of becoming enfeebled, of old age and of death, is 
impossible — we must free ourselves from life, from all pos- 
sible life," says Buddha. 

And what these strong minds said, has been said and 
thought and felt by millions upon millions of people like 
them. And I have thought it and felt it. 

One cannot deceive oneself. It is all — vanity ! Happy is 
he who has not been bom : death is better than life, and one 
must free oneself from life. 

Then I began to consider the lives of the men of my own 
kind ; and I found that they met the problem in one or 
other of four ways. 

The first way was that of ignorance. Some people — 
mostly women, or very young or very dull people — have not 
yet understood the question of life ; but I, having under- 
stood it, could not again shut my eyes. 

The second way was that of the Epicureans, expressed by 
Solomon when he said : ' Then I commended mirth, because 
a man hath no better thing under the sun, than to eat, and 
to drink, and to be merry ."* 

That is the way in which the majority of people of 


our circle make life possible for themselves. Their circum- 
stances furnish them with more of welfare than of hardship, 
and their moral dullness makes it possible for them to 
forget that the advantage of their position is an accidental 
advantage, and that not every one can have a thousand 
wives and a thousand palaces like Solomon, and that for 
every man with a thousand wives there are a thousand with- 
out wives, and that for each palace there are a thousand 
people who have to build it in the sweat of their brows ; and 
that the accident that has to-day made me a Solomon, may 
to-morrow make me Solomon^s slave. The dullness of these 
people's imaginations enables them to forget what gave 
no peace to Buddha — the inevitability of sickness, age and 
death, which to-day or to-morrow will destroy all these 
pleasures. I could not imitate these people: I had not 
their dullness of imagination, and I could not artificially 
produce it in myself. 

The third escape is that of strength and energy. It con- 
sists in understanding that life is an evil and an absurdity, 
and in destroying it. It is a way adopted by a few ex- 
ceptionally strong and consistent people. I saw that it was 
the worthiest way of escape, and I wished to adopt it. 

The fourth escape is that of weakness. It consists in 
seeing the truth of the situation, and yet clinging to life 
as though one still hoped something from it ; and I found 
myself in that category. 

To live like Solomon and Schopenhauer, knowing that life 
is a stupid joke played upon us, and still to go on living : 
washing oneself, dressing, dining, talking and even writing 
books, was to me repulsive and tormenting, but I remained 
in that position. 

I now see that if I did not kill myself, it was due to some 
dim consciousness of the invalidity of my thoughts. And 
I began to feel, rather than argue, in this way : * I, my 
reason, has acknowledged life to be unreasonable. If there 
be no higher reason (and there is not : nothing can prove 
that there is) then reason is the creator of life for me. If 


reason did not exist, there would be for me no life. How 
can reason deny life, when it is the creator of life ? Or to 
put it the other way : were there no life, my reason would 
not exist ; therefore reason is life's son. Life is all. Reason 
is its fruit, yet reason denies life itself!' I felt that there 
was something wrong here. 

Nothing prevents our denying life by suicide. Well then, 
kill yourself, and cease discussing. If life displeases you, 
kill yourself! You live, and cannot understand the meaning 
of life — then finish it ; and do not fool about in life, saying 
and writing that you do not understand it. You have come 
into good company, where people are contented and like 
what they are doing : if you find it dull and repulsive — ^go 
away ! 

Indeed, what are we who are convinced of the necessity of 
suicide yet do not decide to commit it, but the weakest, 
most inconsistent, and to put it plainly, the stupidest of 
men, fussing about with our own stupidity as a fool fusses 
about with a painted hussy ? 

* There is something wrong,' said I to myself; but what 
was wrong, I could in no way make out. It was long before 
the fog began to clear, and I began to be able to restate my 

It had seemed to me that the narrow circle of rich learned 
and leisured people to whom I belonged, formed the whole 
of humanity, and that the milliards of others who have lived 
and arc living, were cattle of some sort — not real people. . . . 
And it was long before it dawned upon me to ask : ' But 
what meaning is, and has been, given to their lives by all the 
milliards of common folk who live and have lived in the 
world ?' 

I long lived in this state of lunacy, which in fact if not in 
words is particularly characteristic of us Liberal and learned 
people. But whether the strange physical affection I have 
for the real labouring people compelled me to understand 
them and to see that they are not so stupid as we suppose ; 
or whether it was due to the sincerity of my conviction that 


I could know nothing beyond the fact that the best I could 
do was to hang myself, at any rate I instinctively felt that 
if I wished to live and understand the meaning of life, 
I must seek this meaning not among those who have lost 
it and wish to kill themselves, but among those milliards of 
the past and the present who know it, and who support 
the burden of their own lives and of ours also. 

And on examining the matter I saw that the milliards of 
mankind always have had and still have a knowledge of the 
meaning of life, but thcU knowledge is their faith, which 
I could not but reject. ^It is God, one and three, the 
creation in six days, the devils and angels, and all the rest 
that I cannot accept as long as I retain my reason,' said I to 

My position was terrible. I knew I could find nothing 
along the path of reasonable knowledge, except a denial of 
life ; and in faith I could find nothing but a denial of reason, 
still more impossible to me than a denial of life. 

Finally I saw that my mistake lay in ever expecting an 
examination of finite things to supply a meaning to life. 
The finite has no ultimate meaning apart from the infinite. 
The two must be linked together before an answer to life's 
problems can be reached. 

It had only appeared to me that knowledge gave a definite 
answer — Schopenhauer's answer : that life has no meaning, 
and is an evil. On examining the matter further, I under- 
stood that the reply is not positive : it was only my feeling 
that made it seem so. The reply, strictly expressed as the 
Brahmins and Solomon and Schopenhauer express it, amounts 
only to an indefinite answer, like the reply given in mathe- 
matics when instead of solving an equation we find we 
have solved an identity : X = X, or = 0. The answer is, 
that life is nothing. So that philosophic knowledge merely 
asserts that it cannot solve the question, and the solution 
remains, as far as it is concerned, indefinite. And I under- 
stood, further, that however unreasonable and monstrous 
might be the replies given by faith, they had this advantage, 


that they introduce into each reply a relation between the 
finite and the infinite, without which relation no reply is 

Whichever way I put the question, that relation appeared 
in the answer. How am I to live ? — According to the law of 
Grod. What real result will come of my life? — Eternal 
torment or eternal bliss. What meaning has life, that 
death does not destroy ? — Union with the eternal Grod : 

Faith still remained to me as irrational as it was before, 
but I could not but admit that it alone gives mankind a 
reply to the questions of life ; and that consequently it makes 
life possible. 

Where there is life, there, since man began, faith has 
made life possible for him ; and the chief outline of that 
faith is everywhere and always one and the same. Faith 
does not consist in agreeing with what some one has said, as 
is usually supposed ; faith is a knowledge of the meaning of 
human life in consequence of which man does not destroy 
himself, but lives. Faith is the strength of life. If a man 
lives he believes in something. If he does not see and 
recognise the visionary nature of the finite, then he 
believes in the finite ; if he understands the visionary nature 
of the finite, he must believe in the infinite. Without faith 
he cannot live. 

What am I ? — A part of the infinite. In those few words 
lies the whole problem. 

I began dimly to understand that in the replies given by 
faith, is stored up the deepest human wisdom. 

I understood this ; but it made matters no better for me. 

I was now ready to accept any faith, if only it did not 
demand of me a direct denial of reason — which would be a 
falsehood. And I studied Buddhism and Mohammedanism 
from books, and most of all, I studied Christianity both from 
books and from living people. 

Naturally I first of all turned to the Orthodox of my 


circle, to people who were learned : to Church theologians, 
the monks, to the theologians of the newest shade, and even 
to the Evangelicals ^ who profess salvation by belief in the 
Redemption. And I seized on these believers and questioned 
them as to their beliefs, and their understanding of the 
meaning of life. 

But in spite of my readiness to make all possible con- 
cessions, I saw that what they gave out as their faith did 
not explain the meaning of life, but obscured it. 

I remember the painful feeling of fear of being thrown 
back into my former state of despair, after the hope I often 
and often experienced in my intercourse with these people. 

The more fully they explained to me their doctrines, the 
more clearly did I see their error. ... It was not that in 
their doctrines they mixed many unnecessary and unreason- 
able things with the Christian truths that had always 
been near to me: that was not what repelled me. I was 
repelled by the fact that these people^s lives were like my 
own, with only this difference — that such a life did not 
correspond to the principles they expounded in their 

No arguments could convince me of the truth of their 
faith. Only deeds which showed that they saw a meaning 
in life, which made what was so dreadful to me — poverty 
sickness and death — not dreadful to them, could convince 
me. And such deeds I did not see among the various 
bodies of believers in our circle. On the contrary, I saw 
such deeds done by people of our circle who were the 
most unbelieving, but never by the so-called believers of our 

^ Readers of Resurrection (Book II, Chap. 17) will remember the 
vivid description of the Evangelical meeting addressed by Kiesewetter, who 
spoke in English. The original from whom Tolstoy drew Kiesewetter 
was Baedeker, a well-known Evangelical preacher who lived in England, 
but visited Russia frequently. 

3 This passage is the more noteworthy because it is almost the only reference 
(and even this is indirect) made by Tolstoy at this period to the revolutionary 
or ' To-the- People ' movement in which so many young men and women were 


And I uudcrstood that the belief of these people was not 
the faith I sought, and that their faith is not a real faith, 
but an Epicurean consolation in life. 

And I began to draw near to the believers among the 
poor simple unlettered folk : pilgrims monks sectarians and 
peasants. Among them, too, I found a great deal of super- 
stition mixed with the Christian truths; but their super- 
stitions seemed a necessary and natural part of their lives. 
. . . And I began to look well into the life and faith of 
these people, and the more I considered it, the more I 
became convinced that they have a real faith, which is a 
necessity to them and alone gives their life a meaning and 
makes it possible for them to live. . . . In contrast with what 
I had seen in our circle, where the whole of life is passed in 
idleness and amusements and dissatisfaction, I saw that the 
whole life of these people was passed in heavy labour, and 
that they were content with life. . . . While we think it 
terrible that we have to suffer and die, these folk live and 
suffer, and approach death with tranquillity, and in most 
cases gladly. 

And I learnt to love these people. The more I came to 
know their life the more I loved them, and the easier it 
became for me to live. So I went on for about two years, 
and a change took place in me which had long been prepar- 
ing, and the promise of which had always been in me. The 
life of our circle, the rich and learned, not merely became 
distasteful to me but lost all meaning for me; while the 
life of the whole labouring people, the whole of mankind 
who produce life, appeared to me in its true light. I 
understood that that is life itself, and that the meaning 
given to that life is true ; and I accepted it. 

I then understood that my answer to the question, ' What 
is life ? ' when I said that life is * evil," was quite correct. 

risking and sacrificing home, property, freedom, and life itself, from motives 
which had much in common with his own perception that the upper 
layers of * Society ' arc parasitic, and prey on the vitals of the people who 
support them. 


The only mistake was, that that answer referred to my life, 
but not to life in general. My life, a life of indulgence and 
desires, was meaningless and evil. . . . And I understood 
the truth, which I afterwards found in the Gospels, that 
men love darkness rather than the light because their deeds 
are evil ; and that to see things as they are, one must think 
and speak of the life of humanity, and not of the life of the 
minority who are parasites on life. 

And indeed, the bird lives so that it must fly, collect food 
and build its nest ; and when I see the bird doing that, I 
joy in its joy. The goat, hare and wolf live so that they 
must feed themselves, and propagate and feed their families, 
and when they do so, I feel firmly assured that they are 
happy and that their life is a reasonable one. And what 
does man do ? He should earn a living as the beasts do, 
but with this difference — that he would perish if he did it 
alone; he has to procure it not for himself but for all. 
When he does that^ I have a firm assurance that he is happy 
and that his life is reasonable. And what had I done 
during the whole thirty years of my conscious life .? I had 
not only not been earning a living for all, I had not even 
earned my own living. I had lived as a parasite, and when 
I asked myself what use my life was, I found that my life 
was useless. If the meaning of human life lies in support- 
ing it, how could I, who for thirty years had occupied 
myself not with supporting life but with destroying it in 
myself and in others — how could I obtain any other reply 
than that my life was senseless and an evil ? It was both 
senseless and evil. 

The conviction that a knowledge of life can only be found 
by living, led me to doubt the goodness of my own life. . . . 
During that whole year, when I was asking myself almost 
every moment, whether I should not end matters with a 
noose or a bullet — all that time, alongside the course of 
thought and observation about which I have spoken, my 
heart was oppressed with a painful feeling which I can only 
describe as a search for God. 


I went over in my mind the arguments of Kant and 
Schopenhauer showing the impossibility of proving the 
existence of a God, and I began to refute them. Cause, 
said I to myself, is not a category such as are Time and 
Space. K I exist, there must be some cause for it, and a 
cause of causes. And that first cause of all, is what men 
have called ^ God."* And as soon as I acknowledged that 
there is a force in whose power I am, I at once felt that I 
could live. But I asked myself: What is that cause, that 
force ? How am I to think of it ? What are my relations 
to that which I call ' Grod ^ ? And only the familiar replies 
occurred to me : * He is the Creator and Preserver.' This 
reply did not satisfy me, and I felt I was losing within me 
what I needed for my life. I became terrified and began to 
pray to him whom I sought, that he should help me. But 
the more I prayed the more apparent it became to me that 
he did not hear me, and that there was no one to whom to 
address myself. And with despair in my heart that there 
is no God at all, I said : * Lord, have mercy, save me ! 
Lord, teach me ! ' But no one had mercy on me, and I felt 
that my life was coming to a standstill. 

But again and again I returned to the same admission 
that I could not have come into the world without any cause 
or reason or meaning ; I could not be such a fledgling fallen 
from its nest as I felt myself to be. Or, granting that I be 
such, lying on my back in the high grass, even then I cry 
because I know that a mother has bonic me within her, has 
hatched mo, warmed me, fed nie and loved mc. Where is 
she — that mother ? If she has deserted nic, who is it that 
has done so? I cannot hide from myself that some one 
bore me, loving me. Who was that some one ? Again 

* He exists," said I to myself. And I had only for an 
instant to admit that, and at once life rose within me, and 
I felt the possibility and joy of being. But again, from the 
admission of the existence of a God I went on to seek my 
relations with him; and again I imagined t/uU God— our 


creator in three persons who sent his son, the Saviour — 
and again ttiat God, detached from the world and from me, 
melts like a block of ice, melts before my eyes, and again 
nothing remains, and again the spring of life dries up 
within me, and I despair, and feel that I have nothing to 
do but to kill myself. And the worst of all is, that I feel 
I cannot do it. 

Not twice or three times, but tens and hundreds of times, 
I reached those conditions first of joy and animation, 
and then of despair and consciousness of the impossibility 
of living. 

I remember that it was in early spring : I was alone in 
the wood listening to its sounds. I listened and thought 
ever of the same thing, as I had constantly done during 
those last three years. I was again seeking God. 

^ Very well, there is no God,' said I to myself; * there is 
no one who is not my imagination but a reality like my 
whole life. He does not exist, and no miracles can prove 
his existence, because the miracles would be my perceptions, 
besides being irrational.' 

* But my perception of God, of him whom I seek,' asked I 
of myself, * where has that perception come from ? ' And 
again at this thought the glad waves of life rose within me. 
All that was around me came to life, and received a mean- 
ing. But my joy did not last long. My mind continued 
its work. 

* The conception of Gt>d, is not God,' said I to myself. 
* The conception, is what takes place within me. The con- 
ception of God, is something I can evoke or can refrain from 
evoking in myself. That is not what I seek. I seek that, 
without which there can be no life.' And again all around 
me and within me began to die, and again I wished to kill 

But then I turned my gaze upon myself, on what went on 
within me, and I remembered that I only lived at those 
times when I believed in God. As it was before, so it was 
now ; I need only be aware of God to live ; I need only 



forget him, or disbelieve in him, and I die. . . . ^What 
more do you seek ? ' exclaimed a voice within me. * This is 
he. He is that without which one cannot live. To know 
God and to live is one and the same thing. God is life. 
Live seeking God, and then you will not live without Grod.** 
And more than ever before, all within me and around me 
lit up, and the light did not again abandon me. 

And I was saved from suicide. . . . And strange to say, the 
strength of life which returned to me was not new, but quite 
old — the same that had borne me along in my earliest days. 

I quite returned to what belonged to my earliest child- 
hood and youth. I returned to the belief in that Will 
which produced me, and desires something of me. I 
returned to the belief that the chief and only aim of my life 
is to be better, i.e, to live in accord with that Will. And 
I returned to the belief that I can find the expression of 
that Will, in what humanity, in the distant past hidden 
from me, has produced for its guidance : that is to say, I 
returned to a belief in God, in moral perfecting, and in a 
tradition transmitting the meaning of life. . . . 

I turned from the life of our circle : acknowledging that 
theirs is not life but only a simulacrum of life, and that the 
conditions of superfluity in which we live deprive us of the 
possibility of understanding life. . . . The simple labouring 
people around me were the Russian people, and I turned to 
them and to the meaning which they give to life. That 
meaning, if one can put it into words, was the following. 
Every man has come into this world by the will of God. 
And God has so made man that every man can destroy his 
soul or save it. The aim of man in life is to save his soul ; 
and to save his soul he must live ' godly," and to live * godly ' 
he must renounce all the pleasures of life, must labour, 
humble himself, suffer and be merciful. . . . The meaning 
of this was clear and near to my heart But together with 
this meaning of the popular faith of our non-sectarian folk 
among whom I live, much was inseparably bound up that 
revolted me and seemed to me inexplicable: sacraments. 


Church services, fasts, and the adoration of relics and icdns. 
The people cannot separate the one from the other, nor 
could I. And strange as much of it was to me, I accepted 
everything; and attended the services, knelt morning and 
evening in prayer, fasted, and prepared to receive the 
eucharist ; and at first my reason did not resist anything. 
What had formerly seemed to me impossible, did not now 
evoke in me any resistance. . . . 

I told myself that the essence of every faith consists in 
its giving life a meaning which death does not destroy. 
Naturally, for a faith to be able to reply to the questions 
of a king dying in luxury, of an old slave tormented by 
overwork, and of all sorts of people, young and old, wise 
and foolish, — its answers must be expressed in all sorts of 
diflTerent ways. . . . But this argument, justifying in my 
eyes the queerness of much on the ritual side of religion, 
did not suffice to allow me, in the one great affair of life 
— religion — to do things which seemed to me questionable. 
With all my soul I wished to be in a position to mingle 
with the people, fulfilling the ritual side of their religion ; 
but I could not do it. I felt that I should lie to myself, 
and mock at what was sacred to me, were I to do so. At 
this point, however, our new Russian theological writers 
came to my rescue. 

According to the explanation these theologians gave, the 
fundamental dogma of our faith is the infallibility of the 
Church. From the admission of that dogma follows in- 
evitably the truth of all that is professed by the Church. 
The Church as an assembly of true-believers united by love, 
and therefore possessed of true knowledge, became the basis 
of my belief. I told myself that divine truth cannot be 
accessible to a separate individual; it is revealed only to 
the whole assembly of people united by love. To attain 
truth one must not separate ; and not to separate, one must 
love and must endure things one may not agree with. 

Truth reveals itself to love, and if you do not submit to 
the rites of the Church, you transgress agclinst love ; and 


by transgressing against love you deprive yourself of the 
possibility of recognising the truth. I did not then see the 
sophistry contained in this argument. I did not see that 
union in love may give the greatest love, but certainly 
cannot give us divine truth expressed in the definite words 
of the Nicene Creed. I also did not perceive that love 
cannot make a certain expression of truth an obligatory 
condition of union. I did not then see these mistakes in 
the argument, and thanks to it, was able to accept and per- 
form all the rites of the Orthodox Church without under- 
standing most of them. 

When fulfilling the rites of the Church I humbled my 
reason, submitted to tradition, united myself with my fore- 
fathers : the father, mother and grandparents I loved, and 
with all those millions of the common people whom I 
respected. When rising before dawn for the early Church 
services, I knew I was doing well, if only because I was 
sacrificing my bodily ease to humble my mental pride, and 
for the sake of finding the meaning of life. However in- 
significant these sacrifices might be, I made them for the 
sake of something good. I fasted, prepared for communion, 
observed the fixed hours of prayer at home and in church. 
Durino: Church service I attended to every word, and gave 
them a meaninn^ whenever I could. 

But this reading of meanings into the rites had its 
limits. ... If I explained to myself the frequent repeti- 
tion of prayers for the Tsar and his relatives, by the fact 
that they are more exposed to temptation than other 
people and therefore more in need of being prayed for, 
the prayers about subduing enemies and foes under his 
feet (even though one tried to say that sin was the foe 
prayed against) and many other unintelligible prayers — 
nearly two-thirds of the whole service — either remained 
quite incomprehensible or, when I forced an explanation 
into them, made me feel that I was lying, and thereby 
quite destroying my relation to God and losing all possi- 
bility of believing. . . . 


Never shall I forget the painful feeling I experienced the 
day I received the eucharist for the first time after many 
years. The service, confession and prayers were quite 
intelligible and produced in me a glad consciousness that 
the meaning of life was being revealed to me. The com- 
munion itself I explained as an act performed in remem- 
brance of Christ, and indicating a purification from sin and 
the full acceptance of Christ's teaching. If that explanation 
was artificial I did not notice its artificiality : so happy was 
I at humbling and abasing myself before the priest — a 
simple timid country clergyman — turning all the dirt out 
of my soul and confessing my vices, so glad was I to merge 
in thought with the humility of the Fathers who wrote the 
prayers of the Office, so glad was I of union with all who 
have believed and now believe, that I did not notice the 
artificiality of my explanation. But when I approached the 
altar gates, and the priest made me say that I believed that 
what I was about to swallow was truly flesh and blood, I felt 
a pain in my heart : it was not merely a false note, it was a 
cruel demand made by some one or other who evidently had 
never known what faith is. 

I now permit myself to say that it was a cruel demand, 
but I did not then think so: only it was indescribably 
painful to me. At the time, I found in my soul a feeling 
which helped me to endure it. This was the feeling of 
self-abasement and humility. I humbled myself, swallowed 
that flesh and blood without any blasphemous feelings, 
and with a wish to believe. But the blow had been struck, 
and knowing what awaited me, I could not go a second 

I continued to fulfil the rites of the Church and still 
believed that the doctrine I was following contained the 
truth, when something happened to me which I now 
understand but which then seemed strange. 

I was listening to the conversation of an illiterate peasant, 
a pilgrim, about God, faith, life and salvation, when a 
knowledge of faith revealed itself to me. I drew near to 


the people, listening to their opinions on life and faith, and 
I understood the truth. So also was it when I read the Lives 
of the Saints, which became my favourite books. Excepting 
the miracles, and regarding them as fables illustrating 
thoughts, this reading revealed to me life's meaning. There 
were the lives of Makarius the Great, of the Tsarevitch 
Joasafa (the story of Buddha) and there were the stories 
of the traveller in the well, and the monk who found some 
gold. There were stories of the martyrs, all announc- 
ing that death does not exclude life; and there were 
the stories of ignorant, stupid men, and such as knew 
nothing of the teaching of the Church, but who yet were 

But as soon as I met learned believers, or took up their 
books, doubt of myself, dissatisfaction, and exasperated 
disputation, were roused within me, and I felt that the more 
I entered into the meaning of these men's speech, the more 
I went astray from truth and approached an abyss. How 
often I envied the peasants their illiteracy and lack of 
learning! Those statements in the creeds, which to me 
were evident absurdities, for them contained nothing false. 
Only to me, unhappy man, was it clear that with truth by 
finest threads was interwoven falsehood, and that I could 
not accept it in that form. 

So I lived for about three years. At first, when I did 
not understand something, I said, ^It is my fault, I am 
sinfuP; but the more I fathomed the truth, the clearer 
became the line between what I do not understand because 
I am not able to understand it, and what cannot be under- 
stood except by lying to oneself. 

In spite of my doubts and sufferings, I still clung to the 
Orthodox Church. But questions of life arose which had 
to be decided ; and the decision of these questions by the 
Church, contrary to the very bases of the belief by which I 
lived, obliged me at last to own that communion with 
Orthodoxy is impossible. These questions were : first the 
relation of the Orthodox Eastern Church to other Churches 


— to the Catholics and to the so-called sectarians. At that 
time, in consequence of my interest in religion, I came into 
touch with believers of various faiths: Catholics, Protest- 
ants, Old - Believers, Molokdns and others. And I met 
many men of lofty morals who were truly religious. I 
wished to be a brother to them. And what happened? 
That teaching which promised to unite all in one faith and 
love — that very teaching, in the person of its best repre- 
sentatives, told me that these men were all living a lie; 
that what gave them their power of life, is a temptation of 
the devil ; and that we alone possess the only possible truth. 
And I saw that all who do not profess an identical faith with 
themselves, are considered by the Orthodox to be heretics ; 
just as the Catholics and others consider the Orthodox to 
be heretics. And I saw that the Orthodox (though they 
try to hide this) regard with hostility all who do not express 
their faith by the same external symbols and words as them- 
selves ; and this is naturally so : first, because the assertion 
that you are in falsehood and I am in truth, is the most 
cruel thing one man can say to another; and secondly, 
because a man loving his children and brothers cannot help 
being hostile to those who wish to pervert his children and 
brothers to a false belief. . . . And to me, who con- 
sidered that truth lay in union by love, it became self- 
evident that the faith was itself destroying what it ought to 

As people of many different religions behave to one 
another in this same contemptuous, self-assured manner — 
the error of such conduct was obvious ; and I thought 
on the matter and read all I could about it, and consulted 
all whom I could. And no one gave me any explanation 
except the one which causes the Soumsky Hussars to con- 
sider the Soumsky Hussars the best regiment in the world, 
and the Yellow Uhlans to consider that the best regiment 
in the world is the Yellow Uhlans. ... I went to Archi- 
mandrites, archbishops, elders, monks of the strictest Orders, 
and asked them ; but none of them made any attempt to 


explain the matter to me, except one man, who explained 
it all, and explained it so that I never asked any one anj 
more about it. 

I asked him why we should not unite on those main 
points on which we could agree, and leave the rest for each 
to decide as he pleases. My collocutor agreed with my 
thoughts, but told me that such concessions would bring 
reproach on the spiritual authorities for deserting the faith 
of our forefathers, and this would produce a split ; and the 
vocation of the spiritual authorities is to safeguard in all 
its purity the Greco-Russian Orthodox faith inherited from 
our forefathers. 

And I understood it all. I am seeking a faith, the power 
of life ; and they are seeking the best way to fulfil before 
men certain human obligations. . . . And I noticed what is 
done in the name of religion, and was horrified ; and I almost 
entirely abjured Orthodoxy. 

The second relation of the Church to a question of life, 
was with regard to war and executions. 

At that time Russia was at war. And Russians, in the 
name of Christian love, began to kill their fellow - men. 
It was impossible not to think about this, and not to see 
that killing is an evil, repugnant to the first principles of 
any faith. Yet they prayed in the churches for the success 
of our arms, and the teachers of the faith acknowledged 
killing to be an act resulting from the faith. And besides 
the murders during the war, I saw during the disturbfimces 
which followed the war, Church dignitaries and teachers and 
monks of the lesser and stricter Orders, who approved the 
killing of helpless erring youths. And I took note of all 
that is done by men who profess Christianity, and I was 

And I ceased to doubt, and became ftiUy convinced that 
not all was true in the religion I had joined. Formerly I 
should have said that it was all false ; but I could not say 
so now, for I had felt its truth and had lived by it. But I 
no longer doubted that there is in it much that is false. 


And though among the peasants there was less admixture 
of what repelled me, still I saw that in their belief also, 
falsehood was mixed with the truth. 

But where did the truth and where did the falsehood 
come from ? Both the falsehood and the truth were con- 
tained in the so-called holy tradition and Scriptures. Both 
the falsehood and the truth had been handed down by what 
is called the Church. 

And whether I liked to or not, I was brought to the 
study and investigation of these writings and traditions — 
which till now I had been so afraid to investigate. 

And I turned to the examination of that same theology 
which I had once rejected with such contempt. ... On it 
religious doctrine rests, or at least with it the only know- 
ledge of the meaning of life that I have found, is insepar- 
ably connected. ... I shall not seek the explanation of 
everything. I know that the explanation of everything, 
like the commencement of everything, must be concealed 
in infinity. But I wish to understand in a way which 
will bring me to what is inevitably inexplicable. I wish 
to recognise anything that is inexplicable, as being so, not 
because the demands of my reason are wrong (they are 
right, and apart from them I can understand nothing), but 
because I recognise the limits of my intellect. I wish to^ 
understand in such a way that everything that is inexplic- 
able shall present itself to me as being necessarily inexplic- 
able, and not as being something I am under an arbitrary 
obligation to believe. I must find what is true and what 
is false, and must disentangle the one from the other. I 
am setting to work upon this task. What of falsehood I 
find in the teaching, and what I find of truth, and to what 
conclusions I come, will form the following parts of this 
work, which if it be worth it, and if any one wants it, will 
probably some day be printed somewhere. 

These closing words in which Tolstoy expresses the hope 
that his work 'will probably some day be printed some- 


where,^ are a reminder of the difficulties and dangers that 
had to be encountered in Russia by any man who set out to 
challenge the authority of the Orthodox Church, whose 
affairs were managed by the Holy Synod, presided over by a 
Procurator able to call on the secular powers to enforce his 


Tolstoy's hpoved: Christchurch, 1901. 

Tolstoy's Confession bein^ prohibited in Russia^ had to be printed 
abroad. The edition mentioned above is a reliable one. 


works: 1852-1878 

Tolstoy's first nineteen stories. Stands in a line of succes- 
sion. Quality as writer. War and Peace. ' (xreat ' men. 
Napoleon. The battles of Schongraben and Borodino. 
Tolstoy's influence on war-correspondence. Serfdom. The 
organisation of society. Characters in War and Peace, Its 
range. Anna KarHiina : Matthew Arnold's essay. Transla- 
tions. The tendency of the book. Kropotkin's criticism. 
The volunteers. Tolstoy's attitude towards Government 
W. D. Howells's appreciation. Tolstoy's Last Three Decades 
of work : the magnitude and nature of his effort. 

Tolstoy's writings during the first twenty-five years of his 
literary career divide up into six sections. 

First came a series of seventeen stories and sketches, 
beginning with Childhood and ending with Family Happt- 
ness. Next came his series of educational articles in the 
Yasnaya Pob/dna magazine. Third came The Cossacks 
(the finest story he had yet written) and Polikoiishka. 
Fourth, came War and Peace. Fifth, came the ABC Book, 
the Readers, and another article on Education ; and sixth, 
came Anna Karhtina. 

Leaving the educational works out of account, the list 
can be reduced to nineteen stories and sketches, followed by 
two great novels. 

The nineteen sketches and stories, * trials of the pen,' as 
Tolstoy called them, covered a wide range of subjects, from 
charmingly realistic sketches of childhood to vigorous de- 
pictions of Cossack life, and showed their writer to be an 
amazingly accurate observer of physical facts and qualities, 



manners, tones and gestures, besides being possessed of a 
yet more wonderful knowledge of the hearts and minds of 
all sorts and conditions of men, fit)m the shamefaced child 
to the officer dying on the field of battle. He is so con- 
cerned with the interest and importance of life, that he can 
hold his reader's attention without having to tell his stories 
so that they must be guessed like riddles, and he never 
makes use of elaborate plots. He needs no tricks of that 
sort. Nor does he strive after effect by the use of porno- 
graphic details, the introduction of extraordinary events, or 
the piling up of many horrible details. His stories are as 
straightforward as everyday life. 

His great novels bear out all the promise of his short 
stories, with the added power of maturity. 

Though highly original and of strong individuality, he 
stands none the less in the line of succession of great writers 
which began with Poushkin, whose genius for simple sincere 
and direct narrative gave an invaluable direction to Russian 
literature, was continued by G(5gol whose biting irony and 
remorseless exposure of shams and hypocrisies completed 
the emancipation from romanticism, and was carried on by 
Tourgenef, whose art, conscious of and not indifferent to the 
trend of thought and feeling in the society it describes, 
reached an extraordinary pitch of artistic perfection. 

Tolstoy's works have from the first interested Russia, and 
now interest the world, because in greater measure than any 
of his predecessors he possesses the capacity to feel intensely, 
note accurately, and think deeply. The combination which 
makes Tolstoy the most interesting of writers, is the scientific 
accuracy of his observation (which never allows him to take 
liberties with his characters or events in order to make out 
a case for the side he sympathises with) and the fact that he 
is mightily in earnest. Life to him is important, and art is 
the handmaid of life. He wants to know what is good and 
what is bad ; to help the former and to resist the latter. His 
work tends to evolve order out of life's chaos ; and as that is 
the most important thing a man can do, his books are among 

WORKS: 1852-1878 429 

the most interesting and important books of our time. He 
makes no pretence of standing aloof, cutting off his art from 
his life, or concealing his desire that kindness should prevail 
over cruelty. Life interests him, and therefore the reflec- 
tion of life interests him, and the problems of art are the 
problems of life : love and passion and death and the desire 
to do right. 

The chief subject reappearing again and again throughout 
the stories he wrote before War and Peace^ is the mental 
striving of a young Russian nobleman to free himself from 
the artificial futilities of the society in which he was bom, 
and to see €md do what is right. The search is only par- 
tially successful. The indictment of society is often con- 
vincing, but the heroes' failures and perplexities are frankly 
admitted. Sometimes there is no hero. In Sevastopol^ for 
instance, he exclaims : * Where in this tale is the evil shown 
that should be avoided ? Where is the good that should 
be imitated ? Who is the villain, who the hero of the story ? 
All are good and all are bad\ and in Lttceme he says: 
* Who will define for me what is freedom, what despotism, 
what civilisation and what barbarism ? Or tell me where 
are the limits of the one or the other ? Who has in his 
soul so immovable a standard of good and evil that by it he 
can measure the passing facts of life ? ' 

This searching for what is good and rejecting what is false 
— resulting in a strong distrust and dislike of the predatory 
masterful domineering types of humanity, and in general 
of what has usually been regarded as the heroic type, and 
also in a friendly compassion for all that is humble simple 
forbearing and sincere — is the keynote of Tolstoy's early 
talcs. They are studies of life, so truthful that the char- 
acters seem to have an independent life of their own. They 
speak for themselves, and at times, like Balaam, bless what 
they were apparently expected to curse. For instance, 
when Prince Nehltidof insists on bringing the wandering 
musician into the Schweizerhof Hotel in Lucerne^ we feel 
how uncomfortable he thereby makes the poor singer, 


though that is evidently not what Tolstoy originally set out 
to make us feel. 

War and Pea>ce^ besides being maturer than the preceding 
tales, was composed during the early years of Tolstoy's 
married life, when he felt more content with himself and 
with life in general, and when his attitude towards existing 
things was more tolerant and sympathetic than it had been, 
or than it became in later years. 

He told me that in War and Peace and Anna KarSnina 
his aim was simply to amuse his readers. I am bound to 
accept his statement; but one has only to read either of 
those books to see that through them Tolstoy'*s ardent 
nature found vent, with all its likes and dislikes, strivings, 
yearnings, hopes and fears. 

I asked Tolstoy why in WTiat is Art f he relegates these 
great novels to the realm of ^ bad art'; and his answer 
showed, as I expected it would, that he does not really con- 
sider them at all bad, but condemns them merely as being 
too long, and written in a way chiefly adapted to please 
the leisured well-to-do classes, who have time for r^s^ling 
novels in several volumes, because other people do their 
rough work for them. Of War and Peace he said, ' It is, 
one would think, harmless enough, but one never knows 
how things will affect people,' and he went on to mention, 
with regret, that one of Professor Zahdrin's daughters had 
told him that from his novels she had acquired a love of 
balls and parties ; things of which, at the time of our con- 
versation, he heartily disapproved. 

In form, War and Peace is unlike any English novel, but 
it resembles Polish kin's Tlie Captains Daughter (though the 
latter is a much shorter story) in that both works are 
chronicles of Russian families, round whom the stories 
centre. In War and Peace there are two families, the 
Rostofs and the Bolkcmskys. 

The mighty drama of the Napoleonic advance from 1805 
to 1812 comes into the novel, in so far as it affects the 
members of those two families. But Tolstoy is not content 

WORKS : 1852-1878 431 

merely to tell us of historic events . He introduces a whole 
philosophy of history, which is sound at bottom though no 
doubt he somewhat overstates his case, as is his habit. 
The theory is that the * great ' men of history count for very 
little. They are the figureheads of forces that are beyond 
their control. They do most good and least harm when, 
like Koutouzof, they are aware of the true direction of the 
great human forces and adapt themselves to them ; but 
then they are modest, and the world does not esteem them 
great. The typical case of the impotent * great' man is 
Napoleon in 1812, at the time of his invasion of Russia. 
He posed before the world as a man of destiny whose will 
and intellect decided the fate of empires. Yet from first to 
last, during that campaign, he never in the least knew what 
was about to happen. The result was decided by the spirit 
of the Russian nation, and by its steadfast endurance. Every 
common Russian soldier who understood that the Russian 
people dreaded and detested the thought of a foreign yoke, 
and who therefore co-operated with the natural course of 
events, did more to further the result than Napoleon, that 
^ most insignificant tool of history,' as Tolstoy calls him, 
who even in St. Helena was never able to understand what 
had caused his overthrow. 

The main theme of the novel, if it be permissible to select 
a main theme out of the many latent in the story, is Tolstoy's 
favourite thesis. He tacitly asks : What is good and what 
is bad? With what must we sympathise and what must we 
reject ? And the reply is that the predatory, artificial and 
insincere types, exemplified historically by the invading 
French, as well as by such characters among the Russians as 
Ellen, Anatole and Ddlohof, are repugnant to him, while 
he loves the humble, the meek and the sincere : Marie and 
Platon Karatdef, Nat^ha (who outgrows the impulsive in- 
clinations of her youth), cmd Pierre (who is often humble 
and always sincere, and loves ideas and ideals). 

It is impossible to do justice to this wonderful book in 
any brief summary. It is not a work to be summed up in a 


few pages. It has many characters, all of them so dis- 
tinctly drawn that we know them better than we know our 
personal acquaintances. It treats of lifers deepest experi- 
ences from the cradle to the grave ; and to read it with 
the care it deserves is to know life better and see it more 
sanely and seriously than one ever did before. Some 
foolish people think that reading novels is a waste of time ; 
but there are hardly any books — at any rate hardly any 
big books — that are better worth reading than Tolstoy's 

He is probably justified in claiming that his history is 
truer than the historifiuis** history of the battles of Schon- 
graben, Austerlitz, and Borodino. The historians, from 
mendacious military reports drawn up after the action, try 
to discover what the Commanders-in-Chief meant to do; 
and to tell their story within moderate limits they have to 
systematise what was really a huge disorder ; thereby giving 
their readers a completely wrong impression of what a battle 
is like. 

N. N. Mouravydf, a Commander-in-Chief who distinguished 
himself in more than one war, declared he had never read 
a better cleseription of a battle than Tolstoy'*s account of 
Schongraben ; and added that he was convinced from his 
own experience that during a battle it is impossible to carry 
out a Commander-in-Chiefs orders. 

Tolstoy, when he wrote the book, was convinced that war 
is inevitable. The idea that it is man's duty to resist war 
and to refuse to take part in it, came to him later. 

In an article entitled ^Some Words about War and 
Peace^ which he wrote in 1868 for one of the periodicals, 
he says : 

* Why did millions of people kill one another, when since 
the foundation of the world it has been known that this is 
both physically and morally bad ? 

' Because it was so inevitably necessary, that when doing 
it they fulfilled the elemental zoological law bees fulfil when 
they kill one another in autumn, and male animals fulfil 

WORKS: 1852-1878 438 

when they destroy one another. No other reply can be 
given to that dreadful question.** 

Yet his inveterate truthfulness, and his personal know- 
ledge of war, caused him to describe it so exactly, that the 
result is tantamount to a condemnation. As Kropdtkin says, 
War and Peace is a powerful indictment of war. The effect 
which the great writer has exercised in this direction upon 
his generation can be actually seen in Russia. It was 
already apparent during the Russo-Turkish war of 1877-8, 
when it was impossible to find in Russia a correspondent 
who would have described how * we peppered the enemy with 
grape-shot,^ or how * we knocked them down like ninepins.** 
If any one could have been found to use in his letters such 
survivals of barbarism, no paper would have dared to print 
them. The general character of the Russian war-corre- 
spondent had totally changed ; and during that war there 
appeared Gdrshin the novelist, and Verestchdgin the painter, 
' with whom to combat war became a life work.** 

It has been charged against War and Peace that it 
neglects to show the evil side of serfdom : the brutality, 
the cruelty, the immurement of women, the flogging of 
grown-up sons, the torture of serf girls by their mistresses, 
etc. But Tolstoy studied the period closely from letters, 
diaries and traditions, especially from the records of his 
own grandparents, the Tolstoys and the Volkonskys; and 
he says he did not find horrors worse than are to be found 
now, or at any other period. People then loved and envied, 
and sought for truth and virtue, and were swayed by 
passions, as now. Their mental and moral life was just as 
complex, and in the upper circles it was sometimes even 
more refined than now. ... No doubt the greater remote- 
ness of the higher circle from the other classes gave a 
special character to the period, but not the character of 
brutal violence. 

Tolstoy is in sympathy with that time, sees the poetry 
of it, and knows how much of goodness, courage, kindliness 
and high aspiration existed among those politically unen- 


franchised serf-owners. With our modem, Western desire 
to organise sociefy efficierUb/^ he never has sj^pathised. The 
state of a man^s mind has always been to him more im- 
portant than the conditions of his life, and it seems to him 
as though there were some antithesis between the two : as 
though, if you organised your society, it would cease to think 
truly or feel deeply.' We in the West are banning to 
believe the opposite, and to suspect that to leave society 
unorganised or disoiganised has an inevitable tendency to 
blunt our minds and souls. But not the less is it valu- 
able to have so wonderful a picture of Russia as it was at 
the commencement of the nineteenth century, painted by 
one who se^ it as the best Russians of that period saw it 

Of the history part of the book, it should be noted that 
Tolstoy says: * Wherever in my novel historic characters 
speak or act, I have not invented, but have made use of 
materials which during my work have accumulated till they 
form a whole library.** 

He told me he considered the defect of the book, besides 
its size, to be the intrusion of a long philosophic argument 
into the story. He still holds the opinions he held when he 
wrote it, as to the influence or impotence of * great' men, as 
well as all that he then said about destiny and free will ; 
but he now realises that his novel would have been a 
better novel without these abstract disquisitions. 

The characters in the book are not strictly copied from 
life, but in the main Tolstoy''s father's family are represented 
by the Rostofs and his mother's by the Bolkdnskys. In the 
magazine article already referred to, Tolstoy says that only 
two minor characters are taken from life, and 'all the other 
characters are entirely invented, and I have not even for 
them any definite prototypes in tradition or in reality.' 
But when he said tliat, he was defending himself from 
the charge of having copied actual people who had played 
a part in the society of the time, and he clearly overstates 
his case, for to a considerable extent the characters in the 

WORKS: 1852-1878 485 

novel correspond to the people mentioned in the following 

Charactebs in War and Members of the Tolstoy 
Peace : or Volkonsky Families : 

The old Prince N. Bolkonsky = Tolstoy's grandfather. Prince 

N. Volkdnsky. 
His daughter. Princess Marie = Tolstoy's mother, the Prin- 
N. Bolkdnsky cess Marie N. Volkonsky. 

The old Count Ilyd A. R68tof= Tolstoy's grandfather. Count 

Dyd A. Tolstoy. 
Count Nicholas I. Rdstof = Tolstoy's father, Count 

Nicholas L Tolstoy. 
. Countess Natilya Rostof =Tatidna Behrs, Tolstoy's 

youngest sister-in-law. 
ScSnya =Tatitoa A. fli^olsky. 

Ddlohof is made up of a combination of Count Theodore 
Tolstoy, a famous traveller, with R. I. Ddrohof, a 
notorious dare-devil of Alexander l's days. 

Many even of the minor characters, such as Mile. 
Bourienne, and Ivdnushka the woman pilgrim in man's 
clothes, are copied more or less closely from people con- 
nected with the Volkdoskys' home at Ydsnaya Polydna. 

Tolstoy's sympathies and antipathies in this novel : his 
appreciation of affection, kindliness, simplicity and truth- 
fulness, and his dislike of what is cruel, pompous, com- 
plicated or false, are the same as in his earlier stories, but 
mellowed and wiser ; they are also the same as in his later 
didactic writings, though there they are formulated, dog- 
matic and rigid. 

The novel covers nearly the whole range of Tolstoy's 
experience of life: in it we have the aristocracy and the 
peasants; town life and country life; the Commanders, 
officers and privates of the army, in action and out of 
action; the diplomatists and courtiers; flirtation, love, 
balls, hunting, and a reform movement which is all talk. 


What Tolstoy does not show, is what he did not know — 
the middle-class world : the world of merchants, manufac- 
turers, engineers and men of business. Of course these in 
Russia a hundred years ago, played a comparatively small 
part ; and there was practically no political activity such as 
that of our County Councils, Borough Councils and Parlia- 
ment. But that all this was absent from Tolstoy^s mind, 
and that his outlook on life was confined to the aristocracy 
which consumed and the peasantry which produced, will, in 
the sequel, help us to understand the social teaching to which 
he ultimately came. His brother-in-law tells us that Leo 
Tolstoy ^ has in my presence confessed to being both proud 
and vain. He was a rampant aristocrat, and though he 
always loved the country folk, he loved the aristocracy still 
more. To the middle clas9 he was antipathetic. When, 
after his failures in early life, he became widely famous as a 
writer, he used to admit that it gave him great pleasure and 
intense happiness. In his own words, he was pleased to feel 
that he was both a writer and a noble. 

* When he heard of any of his former comrades or acquaint- 
ances receiving important appointments, his comments re- 
minded one of those of Souvdriii [a Field-Marshal of 
Catherine the Great's time], who always maintained that 
at Court one receives promotion for cringing and flattery, 
but never for good work. Sometimes he would ironically 
remark that, though he had himself not earned a General- 
ship in the artillery, he had at any rate won his Generalship 
in literature.' 

A simple world of nobles and peasants, wit^i little organ- 
isation, and that of a poor kind : a world the evils of which 
were mitigated by much kindliness and good intention, and 
in which, on the whole, the less the Government interfered 
with anybody or anything, the better — was old Russia as it 
existed under Alexander I and as it still existed when 
Tolstoy was young. He has described it with extraordinary 
vividness, and has made it possible for us to picture to our- 
selves a country and an age not our own. What effect the 

WORKS: 1852-1878 487 

limitation of his outlook, referred to above, bad on tbe 
subsequent development of his opinions, need not here be 
considered. It does not spoil the novel, for no novel can 
show us the whole of life ; but it had a very serious effect 
on the formulation of his later philosophy of life. Of 
certain important types of humanity he has hardly any 
conception. Of the George Stephenson type, for instance, 
which masters the brute forces of nature and harnesses them 
to the service of man — doing this primarily from love of 
efficient work — he knows nothing; nor does he know any- 
thing of the Sidney Webb type, which sets itself tbe yet 
more difficult task of evolving social order out of the partial 
chaos of modern civilisation ; or of the best type of organisers 
in our great industrial undertakings : the men whose hearts 
are set on getting much work' well done, with little friction 
and little waste, and to whom the successful accomplish- 
ment of a difficult project gives more satisfaction than any 
effortless acquisition of wealth would do. Tolstoy over- 
simplifies lifer's problems. He makes a sharp contrast be- 
tween the predatory and the humble types ; and there is a 
measure of truth in his presentation. He is right that life 
is supported by the humble, and is rendered hard by the 
predatory types; but he has omitted from his scheme of 
things the man of organising mind : the man who knows 
how to get his way, and generally gets it (or a good deal of 
it) but does this mainly from worthy motives ; the man who 
is not perfect, and may take more than is good for him, 
and may have some of the tendencies of the predatory type, 
but who still, on the whole, is worth, and more than worth, 
his salt, and but for whom there would be more of chaos 
and less of order in the world. Tolstoy has said in one of 
his later writings that the cause of the Russian famines is 
the Greek Church ; and he is right All that stupefies, all 
that impedes thought, tends to make men inefficient even in 
their agricultural operations. But by parity of reasoning 
he should see that the introduction of thought into methods 
of production, distribution and exchange, which has, during 


the last hundred and fifty years, so revolutionised our Western 
world, should not be condemned as bad in itself, however 
ugly many of its manifestations may be ; and however often 
we may see the organising and the predatory types exempli- 
fied in one and the same person. 

Outside Russia, Anna Karhiina is perhaps more popular 
than War and Peace. The former is a long novel, but not 
nearly as long as the latter ; and though it contains philo- 
sophic disquisitions, these fit better into the story and are 
shorter and clearer than the philosophic chapters in War 
and Peace. In arrangement, again, Anna Karhiina is more 
like the novels we are accustomed to, though instead of one 
hero and heroine it has two pairs of lovers, living quite 
different lives, and not very closely connected. 

It deals with the passionate love of a beautiful and 
attractive woman ; and it has a further interest in the fact 
that Levin, to a greater degree than any of the author^s other 
characters, represents Tolstoy himself; though Tolstoy 
made L^vin a very simple fellow in order to get a more 
effective contrast between him and the representatives of 
high life in Moscow and Petersburg. 

Anna Karenina had the advantage of being introduced to 
the English reading public by Matthew Arnold in an essay 
which is one of the very best any one has ever written 
about Tolstoy. It is so good, and still carries so much 
weight, that I may be excused for mentioning three points 
on which it seems to me misleading. First, Arnold's ground 
for preferring Anna Karenina to War and Peace is ill chosen. 
He says : * One prefers, I think, to have the novelist dealing 
with the life which he knows from having lived it, rather 
than with the life which he knows from books or hearsay. 
If one has to choose a representative work of Thackeray, it 
is Vanity Fair which one would take rather than The 

This surely is misleading. War in Russia in 1812 was 
very similar to war in Russia in 1854, and the son who had 
fought in the latter war, describing the war in which his 

WORKS: 1852-1878 489 

father had fought, was not at all in the position of 
Thackeray describing the life of the Virginians. Tolstoy 
depicted the homes of his parents and grandparents, which 
he in part remembered, and which he at any rate knew well 
from those who had formed part of them, was as close to 
first-hand experience as he was when describing the life of 
Kar^in the pedantic Petersburg statesman, who belonged 
to a world which was essentially foreign to Tolstoy, though 
he had occasionally glanced at it. 

But the sentence in Amold'^s essay which has done most 
harm, is that in which he speaks about translations : * I use 
the French translation ; in general, as I long ago said, work 
of this kind is better done in France than in England, and 
Anna Kar&nine is perhaps also a novel which goes better 
into French than into English." 

It is true enough that the first English translations of' 
Tolstoy were very poor, and it is also true that the French 
versions, so long as Tourgenef attended to them, were 
generally good. But Arnold was wrong in supposing that 
Amia Karinina would naturally go better into French 
than into English. Had he been able to read the original, 
or had he been acquainted with Russian life, he would 
have seen that in Tolstoy^s novels there are two sets of 
people : a Court, Petersburg set, who continually speak 
French and are Frenchified ; and a plain, homely, straight- 
forward Russian (I had almost said, English) set who do 
not use French phrases, and who are sharply contrasted 
with the others. This contrast can be made quite clear 
in an English version, but it is difficult to make it clear in 
a version where even the most Russian characters have to 
speak French. The case is worse than that, however: 
Arnold did not say, as he fetirly might have said, that up 
to his time the French versions were better than the 
English; he speaks as though it were in the nature of 
things that any translation into French must be better 
than any possible translation into English. A prejudice of 
that kind tends to divert attention from the fact that some 


French translations are bad, and some English translations 
are good. As a matter of fact, since Amold''s time the posi- 
tion has been largely reversed. When staying at Ydsnaya 
Polydna in 190d, I heard Tolstoy express considerable dis- 
satisfaction with the new collected French edition of his 
works, the first volumes of which had then recently appeared, 
while he commended some recent English versions, including 
work done by Mrs. Gamett and by my wife. 

A grave error, again, is made by Arnold in speaking of 
Tolstoy'^s later life, where he says that he * earns his bread 
by the labour of his own hands. "^ Tolstoy never did that, and 
never claimed to have done it ; though it is extraordinary 
how often and how confidentiy the statement has been 
repeated. It is a matter however which need not detain us, 
for it does not relate to the period with which this book 

AmoWs summary of the story of the novel is excellent, 
but I can here only quote one more passage from his essay. 
* We have,** he says, * been in a world which misconducts 
itself nearly as much as the world of a French novel all 
palpitating with "modernity.'*" But there are two things 
in which the Russian novel — Count Tolstoi's novel at any 
rate — is very advantageously distinguished from the type 
of novel now so much in request in France. In the first 
place, there is no fine sentiment, at once tiresome and false. 
We are not told to believe, for example, that Anna is 
wonderfully exalted and ennobled by her passion for Vrdnsky. 
The English reader is thus saved from many a groan of 
impatience. The other thing is yet more important. Our 
Russian novelist deals abundantly with criminal passion and 
with adultery, but he does not seem to feel himself owing 
any service to the goddess Lubricity, or bound to put in 
touches at this goddess's dictation. Much in Anna Karenhu 
is painful, much is unpleasant, but nothing is of a nature to 
trouble the senses, or to please those who wish their senses 
troubled. This taint is wholly absent.' 

W. D. Howells, who has stood sponsor for Tolstoy in 

WORKS: 1852-1878 441 

America as Matthew Arnold has done in England, similarly 
says : * It is Tolstoy^s humanity which is the grace beyond 
the reach of art in his imaginative work. It does not reach 
merely the poor and the suffering; it extends to the 
prosperous and the proud, and does not deny itself to the 
guilty. There had been many stories of adultery before 
Anna Karinina^ nearly all the great novels outside of 
English are framed upon that argument, but in Anna 
Karinvna^ for the first time the whole truth was told about 
it. Tolstoy has said of the fiction of Maupassant that the 
whole truth can never be immoral ; and in his own work I 
have felt that it could never be anything but moral/ 

Tolstoy never fears to deal with the real problems of life, 
and never fears to call a spade a spade ; but he also never 
panders to the animal passions. In a letter relating to 
Remirrection he remarked : ' When I read a book, what 
chiefly interests me is the WeUanachauung dea AtUors : what 
he likes and what he hates. And I hope that any one who 
reads my book with that in view will find out what the 
author likes and dislikes, and will be influenced by the 
author^s feelings.^ What is important is not the subject 
treated of, but the feeling the author imparts when dealing 
with it. 

Arnold, it is true, is rather shocked that Anna should 
yield so quickly and easily to the persuasions of Vrdnsky. 
He is quite sure that she ought to have resisted. But here 
we come to a matter on which many Russians disapprove of 
Tolstoy on quite the opposite ground. Kropdtkin in /his 
interesting work Ideals and Realittes in Russian Literature^ 
has stated their case very clearly, and this is the substance 
of what he says : 

Anna Karinina produced in Russia an impression which 
brought Tolstoy congratulations from the reactionary camp 
and a very cool reception from the advanced portion of 
society. The fact is that the question of marriage and of 
the separation of husband and wife, had been most earnestly 
debated in Russia by the best men and women, both in 


literature and in life. Levity towards marriage such tu^ is 
continually unveiled in the Divorce Courts, was decidedly 
condemned, as also was any form of deceit such as supplies 
the subject for countless French novels and plaj^ But 
after levity and deceit had been condemned, the right of a 
new love — appearing perhaps after years of happy married 
life — was seriously considered. Tchemyshevsky^s novel, 
What Is To Be Dane f may be taken as the best expression 
of the opinions on marriage which became current among 
the better portion of the young generation. Once married, 
it was said, don't take lightly to love affairs or flirtation. 
Not every fit of passion deserves the name of a new love ; 
and what is called love is often merely temporary desire. 
Even if it be real, before it has grown deep there is 
generally time to reflect on the consequences that would 
result were it allowed to grow. But when all is said and 
done, there are cases when a new love does come, and comes 
almost inevitably: as for instance when a girl has been 
married almost against her will under the continued in- 
sistence of her lover, or when the two have married without 
properly understanding one another, or when one of the 
two has continued to progress towards an ideal, while the 
other, after having worn the mask of idealism, falls back 
into the Philistine happiness of warmed slippers. In such 
cases separation not only becomes inevitable, but is often to 
the interest of both. It would be better for both to livje 
through the suffering a separation involves (honest natures 
are improved by such suffering) than to spoil the entire 
subsequent life of one — or both in most cases — and to fsce 
the evil consequences which living together under such 
circumstances would be sure to produce on the children. 
That at any rate was the conclusion to which, both in 
literature and in life, the best portion of Russian society 

And into the society Kropdtkin describes in the above 
statement, comes Tolstoy with Anna Karenina. The 
epigraph of the book is ' Vengeance is mine, I will repay ,"" 

WORKS: 1852-1878 448 

and death by suicide is the fate of poor Anna, who was 
married young to an old and unattractive man, and who 
had never known love till she met Vrdnsky. Deceit was 
not in her nature. To maintain a conventional marriage 
would not have made her husband or child happier. 
Separation and a new life with Vrdnsky, who seriously loved 
her, was the only possible outcome. At any rate, continues 
Kropdtkin, if the story of Anna Kar&nina had to end in 
tragedy, it was not in consequence of an act of supreme 
justice. The artistic genius of Tolstoy, honest here as 
everywhere, itself indicated the real cause, in the incon- 
sistency of VnSnsky and Anna. After leaving her husband 
and defying public opinion — that is, as Tolstoy shows, the 
opinion of women not honest enough to have a right to a 
voice in the matter — neither she nor Vrdnsky had the 
courage to break right away from that society, the futility 
of which Tolstoy describes so exquisitely. Instead of that, 
when Anna returns with Vrdnsky to Petersburg, their chief 
preoccupation is, how Betsy and other such women will 
receive her if she reappears among them ? * And it was the 
opinion of the Betsies — surely not Superhuman Justice — 
which brought Anna to suicide." 

Whether Matthew Arnold's view or Kropdtkin^s view be 
accepted, Tolstoy at any rate does full justice to Annans 
charm : ^ her large, fresh, rich, generous, delightful nature 
which keeps our sympathy " and even our respect ; there is 
no nonsense about her being a degraded or vile person. 
And after all, Tolstoy^s view of marriage sanctity is a very 
old and a very widely held one ; and it is surely good to 
have that side of the case put so artistically, so persuasively, 
so well, as he puts it. If ultimately the idea that two 
uncongenial people ought to live out their lives together 
because they have married, has to be abandoned, let it not 
be abandoned without the very best advocates being heard 
on its behalf. 

Anna Karinina contains passages : the ball, the officers" 
steeplechase, the mowing, the death of L^vin^s brother, and 


others, which for artistic beauty are unsurpassed and, one is 
tempted to add, unsurpassable. It also, towards the end, 
contains in admirably concise form much of what Tolstoy 
has told in his Ccnfestion^ of his quest after the meaning of 
life, his thoughts of suicide, and how he learnt from a 
talk with a peasant that man should live for his soul and 
for God. 

His treatment in this novel of the Russian volunteers who 
went to fight for Servia, was as bold a slap in the face to 
the Russian jingoes, who were having things all their own 
way at that time, as Campbell Bannerman^s ^methods of 
barbarism ^ speech, or Sir E. darkens declaration that the 
reassertion of England's claim to suzerainty was ^ a breach 
of national faith,^ was to our jingoes at the time of the 
Boer war ; but it is curious to note the precise position that 
(speaking through the mouth of Levin) Tolstoy took up. 
He did not say that Russia ought not to fight to free the 
Christian populations of Turkey ; he merely said that no 
individual Russian had any business to volunteer for the 
Servian or Bulgarian army, or to take any action to urge 
the Russian Government towards war. 

Of Levin we are told : * He, like Mihaylitch and the 
peasants, whose feelings are expressed in the legendary story 
of the invitation sent to the Varydgi by the early inhabi- 
tants of Russia, said : '' Come and be princes and rule over 
us. We gladly promise complete submission. All labour, 
all humiliations, all sacrifices we take on ourselves, but w^ 
do not jtidge or decided ' And Levin goes on to repudiate 
the idea that the Russian people have ' now renounced this 
privilege [the privilege, that is, of not taking any part in 
Government] bought at so costly a price.'* 

The connection between the roots of Tolstoy'^s opinions 
— manifested in these writings of his first fifty years — ^and 
his opinions in their ultimate rigid and dogmatic form, as 
expressed during the last three decades, is in general so 
close, the dogmas of the later period grew so naturally out 
of the sympathies and experiences of the earlier time, that 

WORKS: 18521878 445 

this point — at which there is a clean line of cleavage (the 
difference between obeying Government and disobeying it) 
— is worthy of particular note. When finishing Anna 
Karinina Tolstoy had not yet reached the conclusion that 
all Governments employing force — even so much as a single 
policeman — are immoral; but his later teachings are 
dominated by that view. 

Apart from the special points I have referred to, the 
general effect and influence of Tolstoy^s fiction can hardly 
be summed up better than they have been summed up by 
W. D. Howells, who says : 

^ Up to his time fiction had been a part of the pride of 
life, and had been governed by the criterions of the world 
which it amused. But Tolstoy replaced the artistic con- 
science by the human conscience. Great as my wonder was 
at the truth in his work, my wonder at the love in it was 
greater yet. Here, for the first time, I found the most 
faithful picture of life set in the light of that human con- 
science which I had falsely taught myself was to be ignored 
in questions of art, as something inadequate and inappro- 
priate. In the august presence of the masterpieces, I had 
been afraid and ashamed of the highest interests of my 
nature as something phiiistine and provincial. But here 
I stood in the presence of a master, who told me not to be 
ashamed of them, but to judge his work by them, since he 
had himself wrought in honour of them. I found the tests 
of conduct which I had used in secret with myself, applied 
as the rules of universal justice, condemning and acquitting 
in motive and action, and admitting none of those lawyer^s 
pleas which baffle our own consciousness of right and wrong. 
Often in Tolstoy's ethics I feel a hardness, almost an arro- 
gance (the word says too much) ; but in his esthetics I have 
never felt this. He has transmuted the atmosphere of 
a realm hitherto supposed unmoral into the very air of 
heaven. I found nowhere in his work those base and cruel 
lies which cheat us into the belief that wrong may some- 
times be right through passion, or genius, or heroism. 


There was everywhere the grave noble face of the truth 
that had looked me in the eyes all my life, and that I knew 
I must confront when I came to die. But there was some- 
thing more than this, infinitely more. There was that love 
which is before even the truth, without which there is no 
truth, and which if there is any last day, must appear the 
Divine justice. . . . 

^ As I have already more than once said, his ethics and 
esthetics are inseparably at one ; and that is what gives a 
vital warmth to all his art. It is never that heartless skill 
which exists for its own sake, and is content to dazzle with 
the brilliancy of its triumphs. It seeks always the truth, in 
the love to which alone the truth unveils itself. If Tol- 
stoy is the greatest imaginative writer who ever 
lived, it is because, beyond all others, he has 
written in the spirit of kindness, and not denied 
his own persona] complicity with his art. 

^ As for the scope of his work, it would not be easy to 
measure it, for it seems to include all motives and actions, 
in good and bad, in high and low, and not to leave life un- 
touched at any point as it shows itself in his vast Russian 
world. Its chief tliemes are the old themes of art always, — 
they are love, passion, death, but they are treated with such 
a sincerity, such a simplicity, that they seem almost new to 
art, and as effectively his as if they had not been touched 
before. . . . 

' Passion, we have to learn from the great master, who here 
as everywhere humbles himself to the truth, has in it life 
and death ; but of itself it is something, only as a condition 
precedent to these ; without it neither can be ; but it is lost 
in their importance, and is strictly subordinate to their laws. 
It has never been more charmingly and reverently studied 
in its beautiful and noble phases than it is in Tolstoy^s 
fiction ; though he has always dealt with it so sincerely, so 
seriously. As to its obscure and ugly and selfish phases, he 
is so far above all others who have written of it, that he 
alone seems truly to have divined it, or portrayed it as 

WORKS : 1852-1878 4f4ff 

experience knows it. He never tries to lift it out of nature 
in either case, but leaves it more visibly and palpably a part 
of the lowest as well as the highest humanity. . . . 

' He comes nearer unriddling life for us than any other 
writer. He persuades us that it cannot possibly give us any 
personal happiness ; that there is no room for the selfish joy 
of any one except as it displaces the joy of some other, but 
that for unselfish joy there is infinite place and occasion. 
With the same key he unlocks the mystery of death ; and 
he imagines so strenuously that death is neither more nor 
less than a transport of self-surrender that he convinces the 
reason where there can be no proof. The reader will not 
have forgotten how in those last moments of earth which he 
has depicted, it is this utter giving up which is made to 
i^pear the first moment of heaven. Nothing in his mastery 
is so wonderful as his power upon us in the scenes of the 
borderland where his vision seems to pierce the confines of 
another world." 

Tolstoy of the later phase, the Last Three Decades, with 
which the sequel of this work will deal, difiered from the 
Tolstoy of the First Fifty Years; but the later Tolstoy 
grew out of the earlier, as the branches of a tree grow from 
its roots. 

The difference lay chiefly in this : that from about the 
year 1878 Tolstoy became sure of himself, succeeded in for- 
mulating his outlook on life, and proceeded to examine and 
pass judgment on all the main phases of human thought and 
activity. His work was sometimes hasty and often harsh ; 
he painted in black and white, subjects really composed of all 
shades of colours ; but what other man has even attempted 
so to examine, to portray, and to tell the frank truth about 
all the greatest problems of life and death ? 

No one really concerned to leave the world better than he 
found it — be his line of work what it may — can aflbrd to 
ignore what Tolstoy has said on his subject. 

No such combination of intellectual and artistic force has 


in our times provoked the attention of mankind. No one 
has so stimulated thought, or so successfully chall^iged 
established opinions. Tolstoy has altered the outlook on 
life of many men in many lands, and has caused some 
to alter not their ideas merely, but the settled habits and 
customs of their lives. Only those who neither know 
nor understand him at all, ever question his sincerity. 

Those who have spoken scornfully of him are those who 
have not taken the trouble to understand him. On the 
other hand, the small minority who swallow his opinions 
whole, do so under the hypnotic influence of his force, 
fervour and genius. To analyse his opinions, and dis- 
entangle what in them is true from what is false, is 
a task no one has yet adequately performed, but for 
which the time is ripe, and which, bold as the under- 
taking may be, I mean to attempt in the sequel to this 

Tolstoy'^s marvellous artistic power, his sincerity, and the 
love that is so strong a feature of his work, have often been 
dwelt upon ; but what really gives him his supreme import- 
ance as a literary force is the union of all these things : 
artistic capacity, sincerity and love, with a quite extra- 
ordinary power of intellect. 

It is not given to any man to solve all the problems of 
life; but no one has made so bold and interesting an 
attempt to do so as Tolstoy, or has striven so hard to 
make his solutions plain to every child of man. 


The literature that has g-rowu up both in Russia and elsewhere 
round Tolstoy's earlier writings is so voluminous^ that I can merely 
indicate a few of the best known works. 

In English we have : 

Matthew Arnold's essay : Count Leo Tolstoi in Essays in Oriticwti 
Second Series : Macmillan and Co., London. (Arnold relied on a 
French translation — hence his misspelling of Tolstoy's name.) 

WORKS: 1852-1878 449 

W, D. Howellshas written several very readable and excellent essays 
on Tolstoy. 1 have unfortunately mislaid my note of them. If any 
American admirer of W. D. Howells will supply me with a list^ I shall 
be fi^lad to include it in any future edition of this work. 

P. Kropotkin's Ideals and Beaiitieft in Russian Literature gives a very 
good idea of Tolstoy's general influence and relation to Russian life 
and literature generally. 

In Russian : 

Mihaylovsky's articles in his collected works are interesting. 

N. Strahuf 's Krititcheskiya Statyi t * Tourgene " i Tolsto , Petersburg^ 
1895^ is excellent. 

V. Zelinsky's Rimsskaya Krititcheskaya Literatoura o praizvedeniyakk 
L, N. Tolstovo (7 vols.) reprints a large collection of Russian criti- 
cisms on Tolstoy's works. 

D. S. Merezhkovsky's Zhizn % Tvortchestvo L, N, Tolstovo % Dosto- 
yevskavo contains some acute remarks on Tolstoy as a writer^ 
but for all that relates to Tolstoy as a man^ it is worse than useless. 
Merezhkovsky did not know Tolstoy personally. He relied on the 
works of Behrs and Anna Seuron^ and even that scrappy information 
he used unfairly. His talk about scents and fine linen^ and in general 
his whole characterisation of Tolstoy^ is spiteful, and to those who 
know the man attacked^ it is merely ridiculous. 



At in the text, dates are given old etyle, except tkoee relating to 
the Crimean War and to Toletoy'e tnnele abroad. 

1646 Peter Tolstoy bom. 

1697 He studies shipbuilding abroad. 

1701 Ambassador to Turkey. 
1710-13 Twice imprisoned by Sultan. 

1714 He obtains Menshikofs favour. 

1716 Accompanies Peter the Great abroad. 

1717 Death of Tsarevitch Alexis. 
1725 P. Tolstoy made a Count. 
1727 P. Tolstoy exiled. 

1729 Death of P. Tolstoy. 

1770 Revival of title of Count. 

1812 Count Nicholas Tolstoy enters army. 

1814 Is captured by French. 

1820 Death of Count Elias (Ilyd) Tolstoy. 

„ Death of Prince N. Volkdnsky. 

1822 Marriage of Tolstoy's parents. 
1828 (28 Aug. o.s.) Birth of Leo Tolstoy. 

1830 Death of Leo Tolstoy's mother. 

1836 Move to Moscow. 

1837 Death of father and grandmother. Return to 

Ydsnaya Polydna. 

1840 The Famine. 

1841 Death of the Countess Osten-Sdken. Move to 

1844 Matriculates at Eaz&n University. 

1847 Leaves the University. 

1848 Passes two examinations at Petersburg University. 

Devotes himself to music, 




Starts Peasant Children's School at Ydsnaya. 
Leaves Y&snaya for Oaasasua. 
At Sokdlniki fete. 
At Goryatchevddsk. 
Goes on expedition from Staroglddovsk. 
AtTiflis; writing CAiHAood. 
Appointed Jnnker. Hunts. 
Sddo'^s friendship. 
Goes on expedition. 
Promised a St. George'^s Cross. 
Finishes Childhood. 
Receives letter from Nekr^sof accepting 

Childhood appears in Contemporary. 
The Raid finished. 
Serves against Shdmyl. 
Nearly killed by grenade. 
The Raid appears in Contemporary. 
Applies for discharge from the army. 
Chased by Tartars. 
Stays at PyatigcSrsk. 
War between Russia and Turkey. 
Applies for service in Europe. Hunts. 
Receives his commission. 
Starts for home. 
At Ydsnaya again. 
Starts for Bucharest. 
War : England and France against 

Tolstoy reaches Bucharest. 
Siege of Silistria abandoned. 
Tolstoy leaves Bucharest for Russia. 
Allies land in Crimea. 
Boyhood appears in Contemporary. 
Bombardment of Sevastopol. 
Tolstoy reaches Sevastopol 


Starts Pea 


20 April 


1 May 








Dec. (end) 






17 Feb. 


2 July 


28 Aug. 




24 Dec. 




18 Feb. 






13 June 


July to Oct. 








19 Jan. 


2 Feb. 


End of Feb. 






June (end) 




14 Sept. 




17 Oct. 


Nov. (end) 









„ 18 

April to 27 






16 Aug. 




8 Sept. 






Jan. (end) 








May (end) 








20 Nov. 







„ 10Feb.(N.s.) 

Tolstoy stationed at Simferopol. 

Refusal of permission to publish 

Memoirs of a BiUiard Marker appears 
in Contemporary, 

May Serves in SeTastopol, in 
Fourth Bastion. 

Sevastopol in December appears in 

Sevastopol in May appears in Con- 

Tolstoy takes part in Battle of 

7^ Wood'FeUing appears in Con- 

Maliihof captured by French. Sevas- 
topol abandoned by Russians. 

Tolstoy returns to Petersburg. 

Sevastopol in August appears in Con- 

Death of Demetrius Tolstoy. 

Russia concludes peace with England, 
France, and Turkey. 

T}ie Snow Storm published. 

Two Hussars published. 

Visits Moscow. 

Engagement with V. V. A. 

Tolstoy ill. 

Grand Duke Michael displeased about 
Soldiers'* Song. 

Tolstoy leaves the army. 

Meeting a Moscow Acquaintance in 
the Detachment published. 

A Squires Morning published. 

Youth published. 

Leaves Moscow for Paris. 
























22 Dec. 




4 Feb. 






15 July 



„ July 

and Aug. 


20 Sept. 








19 Feb. 


5 May 


Visits Switzerland. 

Stays at Lucerne. 

Returns to Ydsnaya. 

Lucerne published. 

Visits Moscow and Petersburg. 

Writes Three Deaths. 

Returns to Ydsnaya. 

Visits Petersburg. Helps to found 
Moscow Musical Society. 

AU)€rt published. 

Signs Resolution of Nobles con- 
cerning Emancipation. 

Nearly killed by bear. 

Three Deatlis published. 

Speaks on Art to Society of 
Lovers of Russian Literature. 

Family Happiness published. 

Organises T&sno-Polydna School 

Leaves Petersburg for Berlin. 

Visits Auerbaxrh in Dresden. 

At Kissingen for his health. 

Nicholas Tolstoy dies at Hycres. 

Visits Florence, Rome, Naples, 

Revisits Paris. 

Visits London. 

Leaves London for Brussels, 
Weimar, and Berlin. 

Re-enters Russia. 

Challenges Toorg^nef. 

Commences work as Arbiter of the 

Occupied with his school 

Ydsnaya Polydna magaiine ap- 






May and 


17 Sept 
S Oct 


16 „ 




28 June 






1866 Jan. and Feb. 














20 May 










Discharged from office of Arbiter of 
the Peace ^ on ground of ill-health.'* 
Takes koum^^s cure in Samdra Grovem- 

Police raid on T&snaya Poly&na. 

Proposes to Miss S. A. Behrs. 


Minister of Interior disapproves of 
Yisnaya Poly ana magazine. 

School abandoned. 

The Coasacha pnUiahed. 

PoUkoishka published. 

Eldest son, Sergius, bom. 

War and Peace commenced. 

Birth of daughter, Tatidna. 

Dislocates arm while hunting. 

Collected edition of Tolstoy's works. 

First part of War and Peace pub- 

Visits battlefield of Borodind. 

Attends Drawing-School. 

Second son, Ily^, born. 

Defends soldier at conrt-martiaL 

Plants birch wood. 

Treated by Zaharin for indigestion. 

Publication of War and Peace con- 

Birth of daughter, Mary. 

Third son, Leo, born. 

War and Peace completed. 

Studies the drama. 

Studies Greek. 
Works at ABC Book. 
Koumys cure in Samara. 
House enlarged. 
Ke-starts school. 


















17 Aug. 




18 Nov. 


15 Jan. 


SO June 



1872 Jan. A Prisoner in the Caucasus pub- 

God Sees the Truth published. 
Son, Peter, bom. 

Confined to Ydsnaya by Investi- 
gating Magistrate. 
Gathering of teachers at Ydsnaya. 
ABC Book published. 
Prepares to write novel of Peter 

the Great^s time. 
Goes with family to Samdra. 
Sam&ra Famine; Tolstoy's appeal 
Kramskdy paints portrait. 
Death of son, Peter. 
Speaks on Learning to Read. 
Death of Aunt Tatidna. 
Publishes article, On Popular Edu- 
1876 New ABC Book published. 

„ Jan.- April First Instalment of Anna Karinina 

Horse races at Samdra. 
Baby daughter dies. 
Death of Pelageya I. ti^shkof. 
Further instalments of Anna Kark- 

Observes Church rites and fasts. 
Visit to Samdra and Orenbourg. 
Concerned about Turkish war. 
Final instalments of Anna Kari- 

nina published. 
Rupture with Katkdf. 
1878 March Visits Petropdvlof Fortress. 

„ Abandons The Decembrists. 

„ May Reconciliation with Tourg^nef. 

,^ Aug. and Sept. Tourg^nef at Ydsnaya Polydna. 







1876 Jan. 

,-April and 










ABC Book, 330, 341, 342, 344-348, 350, 


Tourg^nef^B comment on, 347. 

Active service, military, 86, 99, 110, 

Aim when writing novels, 430. 
Aksikof, S. T., 175, 310. 
Albert, 51, 166. 

Alexander II, Tsar. 180, 287, 380. 
Alexindra Fedorovna, Empress, 111. 
Alexdyef, V. G., 3%. 
Alexis, Tulsto/s servant, 32, 111, 284, 


TsanJvitch, 2, 349. 

Algebra, 355. 

Ambrose, Father, 384. 

Anarchism, peaceful, 57, 139. 

Anccstr}', 1-7, 14. 

Animals, kindness to, 28, 307. 

Anna Knrinina, 289, 349, 357, 360, 

361, 377, 438-445. 

characters in, 349. 

impression produced in Russia by, 

Matthew Arnold's comments on, 


W. D. Howells" comments on, 

440, 441, 455, 456. 

Kropotkin's comments on, 441-443. 

Tourg^nef 's comments on, 361. 

Ant Brotherhood, 18, 19. 
Appearance, personal, 7, 26, 64. 
Arbiter of the Peace, 211, 226-229, 

Arbouzofs RecoU^ctionM, 369. 
Arithmetic in ABC 'Rook., 341, 359. 
Arm dislocated, 302, 303. 
Army, enters the, 65, 76. 

leaves, 152. 

becomes an officer in, 91. 

Arnold, Matthew : comments on Anna 

Kardnina, 4.38-440, 443. 
Art, talk with ])casant boys about, 

257, 258. 

thoughts on, 186, 275-277, 296, 

.333, 377, 405. 

what is it ? 260. 

Artistic ca])acity of peasants, 275. 

- element in Literature, speech on 
the, 185. 

Artists, Tolstoy's criticism of, 163, 164, 

Astronomy, studies, 341. 

Auerbach, B., 194, 212. 

Aunt Tatiina. See Tatidna, 

Austria's pressure on Russia, 97. 

Authors, Tolstoy's criticism of the, 162- 

Autobiographical, 10. 14. 17. IS. SO, 
21, 24, 26, 28, 31, 34. 37. 38v 39* 42, 
43, 46, 48, 49, 50, 51, 59» 61, 64, 65- 
76, 77, 81, 82. 84, ^, 90, 9&, 96, 98, 
106, 108, 109, 110, ifiS, l«a, 130, 148» 
150, 152, 153-155, 160, 161, 16S, 167- 
173, 175, 177-180, im, 1S9, 192, 198, 
200, 202, 212, 214, ^A, 228, 252. 254, 
263, 269, 272, 382^84, 286, 288, 291, 
293. 294, 296, 298, 300, 303, 304. 325» 
326, 327, 333, 337, 359, 365, 383, and 
whole of chap. xi. 

Bjedskbr, preacher, 413. 
Bdrttchina explained, 225. 
Barvatinsky, General, 66. 
Bashkirs, Tolstoy and the, 335-337. 
Bastion, the Fourth, 110, 113, 114, 117. 
Bastions, clears Fifth and Sixth, 121. 

See also ScvattopoL 
Bear Hunt, The, 342. 
Bear-hunt, a, 183-185. 
Bee-keeping, 296. 
Beethoven, comment on, 276, 377- 

Behrs family, the, 148, 284, 288, 290. 
Miss S. A. See Tolttoy, CowiUu 

S. A. {\ 207, 332, 

comments on Tolstoy by, 324, 

387, 390, 4.36. 
Tdnya (Tinitohka ; iUt€r-in4aw), 

Belb^'k, transferred to, 110, 111. 
Beliefs, religious, 38-39, 162, chap. xL 
Berlin, in, 193, 194. 
Bible, the, 263-267. 
Billiards, Chinese, 284. 
Birth, Tolstoy's, 9. 
Boarding schools condemned, 234. 
Bolk6nskyB, the {War and Peace), 

Books for the people, 263, 267, 277, 339. 
that influenoed Tolatoy, 31, 44, 





Borodin6, viut to battlefield of, 306. 
B6tkin, V. P., 161, 168. 174, 316. 

'■ comment on War and Peace, 315. 

'■ oritioUm of TolBtoy, 223. 

Bodlkft (dog), 88, 89. 
BoatleriSf, A. M., ProfeMor, 383. 
Boyhood, 31, 91. 

ToUtov't critioiam of, 160. 

BraTery, 66w 
Buoharest, in, 96, 96. 
Baokle, oritioism of, 239. 
Buddha, on Life, 407, 409. 
Buddhism, atudy of, 412. 
Bulgarian inBurreotion, 379. 
BuU Ulk keeper, 346. 

Captain'i Daughter, The, 161, 430. 

Cards. See Oambling, 

Oauoasut, in the (see chap. iii.). 

deeoriptionB of the, 61-63. 

fighting in the, 61, 87. 

Censor, the, 86, 131, 132. 

Charity, 216. 

Chastity, adyooaey of, 13. 

Chess, 77, 119, 1^ 389. 

Cheyet's system of Music, 167, 271. 

ChUdkood, 22, 26, 66, 83, 86. 

Tolstoy's oritioism of, 160. 

Children, Tolsto/s, 295, 303, 317, 320, 
344, 352, 357, 360, 363. 

education of, 317-320, 366, 385. 

goyemesses, 318, 366. 

punishmenU of, 318, 319. 

and the senrants, 318. 

taught music, 366. 

painting, 366. 

teach in peasant schools, 340. 

Tolstoy's tact with, 204, 205, 206, 


toys, 318. 

Christian and Greek ideals, 332, 333. 

Christianity, study of, 412. 

ChriHt's Hospital, education at, 279. 

Church, the Orthodox, 38, 39, 413, 430, 
419, 420, 424, 437. 

Church ceremonial, 343, 370. 

Clarens, at, 168, 170. 

Coat of arms, 'i. 

Collates Artillery Commanders' re- 
ports, 121. 

Colony, agricultural, in Kansas, 396, 

Communion, Tolstoy takes, 290, 421. 

Composition, how to teach, 272, 275, 

Comte, 397. 

Confession, Tolstoy's, 24, 39, 40, 53, 
162-165, 167, 202, 203, 282-284, 298, 
391, 394. (See also chap, xi.) 

Consumptive tendencies, 156, 284. 

Contemporari/, The, 83, 138, 148, 182, 

Contributors to, 138, 139, 142. 

Contradict, readinew to, 143. 
Conyersion, 394, 398. 
ChpperfUld, David, 44, 45, 90. 
Corporal punishment, 13, 14, 26. 
Oouaeki, i%e, 78, 79, 189, 284, 296, 

Coiaaekt, The, Tonrg^nef soommentoin, 

CoesackB, 78^. 

Count, origin of Tolstoy's title, 2. 
Country life, loye of, 306. 
Courier to Petersburg, 122. 
Court-martial, 310-312. 
Crimean War, chap. iy. 
cause of, 94. 

Da.ilt routine, 320. 

Datea, Russian, 9. 

Death, thoughto on, 342, 386. 

first experience of , 28, 24. 

Death of baby drl, 369. 

baby Nicholas, 360. 

B<itiin, V. P., 316. 

Demetrins Tolstoy, 44* 147. 

Father and Qrandlmother, S3, 


keeper by bull, 345. 

Nicholas Tolstoy, 197-203. 

Peter, baby, 362. 

Tatiina A. Brgolaky, 368-360. 

See also Talidaa. 
P. L uSkof, 369. See also 

Debts, 48, 49, 53, 56, 71, 72, 284. 
Deeembrittt, The, 145, 299, 386. 
Decembrists, the, 14, 387. 
Defiance of accepted opinions, 140. 
Demetrius Tolstoy. See Tolstoy, Dt- 

Democratic goyemment, adyantages 

of, 144. 
Democratic institutions, scorn for, 145. 
Dentists, 208. 
Diary, 37. 53, 81, 83, 148, 161, 167, 172, 

173, 187, 189, 200, 212, 220, 228, 285, 

286, 288, 289, 290, 309. 
Dickens's influence on Tolstoy, 46. 
Diesterweg, educationalist, 213. 
Digestive troubles, 293. 
Dijon, at, 166. 
Dissipation, 52, 92, 97. 127, 140, 161, 

Divorce question, the, 441-443. 
Doctors, dislike of, 313, 369. 
Documents, carelessness with, 51, 65, 

Dogs, his, 88. 
Dostoy^vsky, S. A., 84. 
Drama, Tolstoy and the, 297, 326, 327. 
Drawing, 310. 

lessons, 269, 270. 

Dresden, in, 194. 



DnM, elemDoe in, 35, 173. 

dmplieity, 309. 

Dionzhinin, A. V., 148, 156, 157, 158, 

oritioiies Tolitoy*s style, 150. 

oriUeiMf Youth, 158. 

letter from, 190. 

Duel, a. See Tcurg4nef. 
DuniM phre, m novelist, 806. 

eduoation*l influence, 907. 

Dyikof, D. A., 37, 306, 381. 

EouoATioir, 830-839. See also School. 

at Christ's Hospital, 879. 

oriticism of, 838. 833. 

definition of, 831. 

evening lectures, 194. 

false bases of, 238. 

speech on, 353. 

Tolstoy's, 88. 

^ildren's, 317-380, 366, 385. 

ToUtoy's method of, 878, 353. 

the right to reject, 835. 

Z^mstvo Committee of, 356. 

Educational systems, Tolstoy studies : 

in England, 194, 810. 

Kissingen, 195. 

MarseOles, 806, 807. 

Saxony, 194. 

Weimar, 818. 

system in Qermany, criticised, 

work, Tolstoy on his own, 888, 

Emancipation of the serfs, 180-188, 886, 

Tolstoy's attitude towards, 883- 

En|[agement with V. V. A., 150-155. 
Epicureans and life, 408. 

fpiUph, an, 388. 
rgolsky, T. A. See TaUdna, Atmi, 
Estate buying, 300, 337, 359. 

management, 306, 383, 345. 

searched, 885-888. 

Eucharist, Tolstoy receives the, 890, 

Eugene Baumann. 194. 
Evangelicals, the, 413. 
Examinations, Tolstoy's, 33, 34, 35, 49, 

Execution, an, 167, 311. 
Executions, the Church and, 484. 
Exercise, physical, 84. 188, 173, 308, 

367. See also Oymnattia, 

Fabli, an Eastern, 404. 

Fame, thoughto on, 189, 183, 401. 

Familp Happineu, 185. 

Famines caused by the Church. 437. 

Famine Fund, Samira, 360, 351. 

Famines, 30, 304^ 350. 

Farming, 179, 198, 894, 896, 304. 

Fasts, Tolstoy, 419. 

Fatherland Journal, The, 158, 354, 355. 

Faiher Sergiui, 348. 

Fau»t (Tourg^nef s), 156. 

FMka, literary genius of. 878-974. 

walk with, a, 854-860. 

Fet, A. A., 139, 141, 176, 915, 919, 998, 
304, 318. 381, 330. 

letters to. from Tolstoy, 179. 180, 

188, 188, 198, 800, 914, 917, 991, 993, 
300, 303, 319, 315, 395, 396, 330, 331, 
333, 337. 349. 344, 351. 359. 359. 360, 
361, 365, 366, 371, 379, 373, 374, 380, 
381, 389, 383, 385, 386, 387, 388, 391, 

in rhvme to, 347. 

Literary Evening in aid of Famine 

Fund, 314. 

's poems, Tolstoy's admiration of, 


Tolstoy'scriticism of. 399. 387, 391. 

visiU Tolstoy, 993-995, 314. 

Fet, Peter A., 373. 

Fint Step, The, 909. 

' Flock for the shepherd, a,' 934. 

Fly, attempU to. 95. 

Folk-Songs and Tales, 376, 379, 385. 

Fort OnSzny. at, 86. 

Fourth Bastion, in the, 110-117. 

Franco-Prussian War, 330, 331. 

Freedom of Russian nobles, 55. 

French language, the, 176. 

people, the, 907, 331. 

Froebel, Julius, 195. 

Future Life, thoughU on, 909, 340. 

Oamblikg, 63, 54, 68, 69, 110, 140. 


reflections on, 81. 

Gamett. Mrs. C. 360, 440. 

* Generalship in Literature,' his, 436. 

Geneva, in, 168. 

Geniality and good humour, 904, 334, 

' Chnt comme il faut,* preference for, 

41, 60. 97. 
Geographv, 33, 969. 
Georgia, 61. 

Gipsy girl singers, 59, 55, 59, 140, 178. 
God, * There is no,* 94. 
thoughto on, 73, 189, 190, 374, 

375, 415. 418. 
God ueM the Truth, Bui Waiti, 349. 
Gortohak6f, Prince BL D., 90, 95, 100, 

104, 118. 
Gouneba (stallion), 374. 
Government approves Tolstoy's 

schemes, 999, 360. 
Tolstoy's dislike of, 43, 999, 988, 




Grammar in MhooU, S68. 

Bohools, 366. 

Qreb^nikv Coasaoki, 78. 

Greek and Chriitian ideals contrasted, 

Greek, Tolstoy learns, 331-333. 

Churoh. See Church. 

GrigonSvitch. D. V., 140. 141. 
Gymnasiums, Rtisnian, 366. 
Gymnastics, 173, 179, S05, 261, 308. 

Hadji Mouair, 33G. 
ffandwerkivcrein^ der^ 194. 
Happiness, plans for future, 74, 75, 76. 

thoughts on, 79. 80, 83, 447. 

Hay saved b^ personal exertions, 299. 

Hegel, criticism of, 239. 

Heresy, on. 423. 

Hermit, visit to a, 365. 

Herodotus, 332, 337. 

Herzegovina, 373. 

Herzen, Alexander, 143, 209, 210. 

Historian, Tolstoy as, 432. 

History, criticism of, 36, 268. 

how to teach, 268, 269. 

Home, love of, 323. 
Homer, 331. 
Homyak6f, A. S., 185. 
Honesty, 126, 127. 

of peasants, 243, 244. 

Horse-breeding, 362. 
Horse-race at Samira, 364. 
House of Commons, 211. 

sale of, 111. 

* Hundred and Ninety-three, The,' trial 

of, 395. . 

Hunting, 66, 90, ia3-185, 230, 302, 30<5, 

309. See also Shoot hifj. 

accident, 184, 185. 302, 303. 

Hussars, Two, 149. 157, 361. 
Hy^res, at, 197, 206. 

Ideals and Realities in Russian Litera- 
ture (Krop6tkin), 441. 

Iliad, appreciation of the, 172. 

Incarcerated, 35. 

Inconsistency, 50. 

Infant Schools condemned, 235. 

Infected Family, The, 297. 

IfUroduction to a Criticism oj Dog- 
matie Theolofjy. See Confession. 

IrriUbility, 140, 141. 

Junker becomes a, G5. 

's life in the Caucasus, a, 79, 80. 

Jury, serves on, 330. 

Kansas Agricultural Colony, 396, 397. 

Kant, 416. 

Karalyk, at, 285, 334337. 

Katki^f, M. N., 174. 284. 

Kazan, life in, 32-35. 

Kaakn University, 32, 33. 

Keller, 212. 

Kiesewetter {Beturrecium\ 413. 

Kinglake, historian of Uie Crimean 

War, 133, 134. 
Kif%g Lear, Drouzhinin and, 157. 
Kissingen, at, 195. 
Knyctz, meaning of, 3. 
Kock, Paul de, 206. 
Koran, 338, 385. 

Komilof, Admiral, 105, 106, 11& 
Koichivka, dSb, 
Kownps cure, 281, 306. 333. 
Koundk, 69. 
KramskcSy paints portrait of Tolstoy, 

a51, 352. 
Krop6tkin, P., 390, 441-443. 
comments on Anna Karinina, 


Serastopol, 133. 

Ideals and Realities in Ruuian 

Literature, 441. 
Kryzhan6v8ky, General, 127, 373. 

Land, the, 188, 215. 
Languages, 129, 331. 

Oriental, studies, 33. 

lAo-Tsze, 358. 

Lautiermethode, 353. 

Ijaw, studies, 135. 

Lelewel, Polish author, 211. 

Leontief, Professor, 332. 

L^vin {Anna KarMina), 289, 444. 

Life in danger, Tolstoy's, 86, 87, 110. 

Lisogoub, D., 397. 

Literature as an occupation, 65, 82, 109, 


'A General in,' 436. 

its importance in Russia, 190. 

Literacy, Moscow Society of, speech to 

the, ^53, 354. 
Lives of the Saints, the, 422. 
London, in, 194, 208. 
Love affairs, 26, 79, 140-155, 288-290. 
Lucerne, 171, 429. 
Lucerne, in, 170, 171. 
Luther, Martin, 196. 
Luxury, dislike of, 309. 317. 

Macaulay criticised, 239. 

Magazine, Tolstoy's. See Ydsnaya 

MaUhof, capture of the, 119-121. 
Mariana, 79, 91. 
Marie (Mdsha or Mary) Tolstoy [sifter). 

See Tohtoy. 

Tolstoy {daughter). See Tol^oy. 

Volk6nsky, Princess, {nwther). 

See Tolstoy. 
Marriage, 290. 
question, the, 441-443. 



Marryat's noTels, 281. 

Marsoilles, in, S06. 

Mirja Gerisimoyna, 9, 22. 

Masquerades, 309, 340. 

Master aiid Man, 91. 

Matriculates, 33. 

Maude, A., letter to, 301. 

Meeting a Moscow Acquaintance, 157. 

Memoirs of a Billiard Marker, 91, 167. 

M^nshikof, Prince, 2, 3. 

Alexander, 106, 122-124. 

Metaphysics, 407. 
Michael, Grand Duke, 152. 
Middle-classes, Tolstoy's ignorance of, 

Middle period of Tolstoy's life, 298. 
AKhayldvsky, N. K, 354, 355. 394, 396. 
Military newspaper projected, 108, 109. 
Mill, J. S., 397. 

Mineral waters, a course of, 81, 313. 
Miracles, 417. 

Moabit Prison, visit to, 194. 
Mohammedanism, studies, 412. 
Molokins, 338, 423. 
Moscow Gazette, The, 360. 
Moscow Conservatoire, the, 175, 375. 

Fifty, trial of the, 394- 

Society of Lovers of Russian 

Literature, 185. 
Mother V6lga (song), 276. 
Mouhamed Shah, 350, 362. 
Mouravy6f, N. N., 432. 
Mowing, 367. 

Murder of Countess Tolstoy, 266. 
Music, Chevet's method of teaching, 

167, 271. 

his children learn. 366. 

love of, 51, 52, 176, 306, 320, 374- 


method of teaching, 271. 

Musical notation, 271. 

Nafolbon I, 431. 

Ill, 95, 133. 

Nature, delight in, 86, 169, 170, 176, 

Nekrisof, N. A., 83, 132, 138, 141, 

166, 172. 
comments on The Wood-feUing 

and Sevastopol, 108, 132. 
Neues Lebm, Bin (Auerbach), 194. 
-yw^/i^ Book. 360. 
New Religion, would found a, 130. 
Newspaper, projected military, 108, 

Newspapers, dislike of. 326. 379. 
Nicholas, baby, 352. 
Nicholas I, 94. 

Nicholas Tolstoy. See Tolstoy, 
Nihilist, The, 297. 
'Not Bom to be Like Everybody Else,' 


Novel writing, 66, 188. 
*Numidian cavalry,' the, 369. 

OBOLiNSKT, Prince D. D., 310, 323, 346, 

Obrdk, 224, 226. 

Officers, relations with, 63, 82, 127. 
Ogary^f, N. P.. 65. 71, 209, 210. 
Old style calendar, 9. 
Old Testament, the, 263-267. 
Oltenitza, in, 96. 
On the Eve (TourgAtief ). 188. 
Optin's Hermitage. SO. 384. 
Orenbourg. at. 362, 373. 
Oriental languages, studies, 33. 
Originality, 27. 
Osten-Saken, Count, 5. 

Countess A. I. (aunt), 29, 30. 

OstnSvsky, A. N., 189. 

Ouroiisof, Prince S. S., 119, 321, 331. 

Ousp^nsky, N. V., 263. 

Paxmkbston, Lord. 211. 

Panief, V. I., 84, 138, 161. 

comments on Sevastopol in May, 

Paris, in, 166, 167. 207, 208. 
Parliament, 211. 
Pascal, B., Pensies, 383. 
Pishenka, 29. 
Patriotism, 110. 322. 
Peasants' artistic capacity, 276, S79. 
Pedagogic tact, 279. 
Penmanship, 267, 268. 
Pens^s, by Pascal, 383. 
Per6vsky. Sophie. 397. 
Petersburg, in, 48. 60. 138, 139, 151, 

173 386. 
Peter.' baby. 344. 362. 

the Great. 2. 348. 

proposed novel of period of, 

study of period of, 344, 


Tolstoy. See TolHoy. 

Petropdvlof Fortress, visits, 38a 

Petr6vsky Fair, 336. 366. 

Physical exercises, ezpertnets in, 84, 

128, 173. 309, 367. 
Piano-playing, 62, 290. 320. 
Pilgrims and saints, 9, 28, 29, 394. 
PUksin, Sergey, 204. 
Plays, 297, 327. 
Police search at Tisnaya Polyina, 285- 

Polikotishka, 211, 296, 296. 

Tourg^nef s comment on. 297. 

Polish insurrection (1863), 296. 
Portrait by Kramsk6y, 351, 352. 
Posthumous publications, 336, 376, 384. 
Poiisfakin, 131, 138, 161, 42a 
Prayer, 39, 64, 71, 91, 117, 370, 420. 



Pnyer, answer to, 68, 72. 
IVinoe, the RuMian title, 3. 
Printing, questions the utility of, 285. 
PrUoner in the Oauoatut, A, 88, 


Tourg^nef s oomxnent on, 847. 

Prisoners, Turkish, a Tisit to, 386. 
Prisons, yisito to : the Moabit, 194. 
PetropiTlof Fortrets, 

Progress, thoughts on, 886, 838-846, 

Promotion, slow, 85. 
Propaganda, social and politioal, 387. 
Proposal by initials, to Miss a A. 

Behrs, 8^. 

formal, 890. 

Proudhon, visit to, 811. 

Public speeches by Tolstoy, 186, 311, 

Punishment of his children, 318. 
Pyatigorsk, in, 81, 88. 

QuMTioN-Boxn, 194. 

Racks on Samira estate, 364. 

Raid, The, 77. 85, 86. 

Railways, aversion to, 840-848, 333. 

Raven (horse), 87, 88. 

Read, Is it worth learning to? 877. 

Readers, Slavonic and Ru«ian, 339, 
341, 359, 427. 

Reading lessons, 868. 

practical demonstration of teach- 
ing, 354. 

Rcadinff Library, The, 148. 

RecoHectiom of Count Tolstoy (Behrs), 
297, 367. 

Reforms in Russia, 144. 

want of sympathy with, 144. 885, 


Religion, on, 130, 338, 343. 

wishes to found a, 130. 

Religious beliefs, 38, 39, 168. 

Reports, collates military, 121. 

Review, a military, 84. 

Revolutionary movement, 396, 413. 

Riding lesson, first, 27. 

Rioht and Left Hand of Cknint Tolstoy, 
The, 395. 

Rousseau, J. J., 46, 229. 

Rubinstein, Nicholas, 175, 375, 384. 

Rudolph, musician, 51, 167. 

Rules of conduct, 37, 38, 88. 

Ruaso-Turkish Wars, the, 91, 95, 373. 
See also Crimean War. 

SiDo, 09-73, 87. 

St. George's Cross, 76, 77. 

Sakya Muni, 407. 

Sale of house. 111. 

Saltykof, M. K, (Stchedrin), 174, 354. 

Samira, buys estatas in, 300, 337, 369. 

famine in, 360, 861. 


Samirin, P. F., 346, 366. 
Sand, George, hostility to, 14t, 38a 
Sohool, the TAsno-Poljina, 68; 187, 

830, 846-864, 861, 878, 898, 340. 
eziemal diaordar in, 


a fight in, 849. 

punishment, 251, 868. 

theft, a, 861, 858. 

Schoola, 830-839, 883. 

boarding, 834. 

infant, 836. 

Tolstoy inspects, 194, 806. See 

also ja<ioa<son. 
Schopenhauer, on, 316, 419. 

on life, 407, 408, 411, 416. 

SokwartwiiULer Dorfguckiehten^ 196, 

Sculptor, Tolstoy as, 310. 
Soythians, 337. 

Search of estate by police. 886-88& 
Self -depredation, 168, 898. 
perfecting, 37, 38, 47, 48, 49, 68, 

Sensuality, thoughts on, 81. 
Sequel, the, 447. 
Serfdom, 811, 884, 433. 
Serfs, emancipation of the. See 

relations with the, 81, 48, 47, 168, 

Sergius Tolstoy (hrothrr). See Tolstoy. 
Servants, relations with, 308, 319, 324. 
Sevastopol, 112, 116, 130, 429. 

the Censor and, 131. 

comments on, by Kropotkm, 133. 

Tourg^nef. 133. 

English edition of, 135, 301. 

Sevastopol in August, 119. 157. 
Sevastopol in December, 111, 131. 
SriHistopol in May, 130, 131. 
Sevastopol, map of, 112. 

Fourth Bastion, in, 110-117. 

Siege of, 106-109, 112-117. 

situation in, 105. 

SUr Fort, the, 119. 

Tolstoy reaches, 104. 

truce, a, 134. 

ShAmyl, 61, 86. 

Shooting, Tolstoy goes, 84, 85, 90, 304- 

305, 316, 336. 
Shyness, 129, 130. 
Sijeunesse savait, 179. 
SiUstria, recollections of siege, 97-104. 
Simplicity, 84. 
Sincerity, disbelief in others', 143. 

his own, 50, 448. 

Singer at Lucerne, 171. 



Singinc lenons, 167, 870, 271. 

SlAvophilUm, 160, 161. 

Sleep, respect for, 324. 

Smoke, oomments on, 313. 

Snow Storm, The, 91, IfiT. 

SooUlism, 396. 

Social toot, 129. 

Society, organiiation of, 434. 

Socrates on Life, 407-409. 

Sok61niki, at, 59. 

Soldier, pleads for life of, 311. 

popular sympathy for, 312. 

Soldiers^ Song, 122-126, 162. 

Solomon, 407, 409, 411. 

South Kensington, at, 194. 

Spiritualism, 82. 

Sportsman, Tolstoy, the, 66, 84, 86, 

90, 183-186, 230, 302, 304-305, 306- 

309, 316, 336. 
Sports, organises, 364. 
Spring, influence of, 176. 
Squire i Morning, A, 47, 168. 

Tourg^nef 8 comment on, 168. 

Stoff-officers, disapproval of, 118. 

Stallion (Gouneba), 374. 

Stor Fort, the, 119. 

StarogUdovsk, in, 61, 65, 76, 78. 


Stote service, 43. 

StchedHn, 174, 354. 

Stendhal, 93. 

Stol/pin, 108, 285. 

Story-teller, an itinerant, 384. 

Strihof, N. N., 321, 325, 344, 383, 

Strength, great physical, 367, 369, 403. 
Strenuousness, o23. 
Style, Drouzhinin critidsee Tolstoy's, 

Suicide, thoughto of, 402, 406, 410, 418. 

in Anna KarSnifM, 349. 

Sy6mka and F^dka, litcoary genius of, 

walk with, 254-260. 

* Taxx care of that young man,' HI. 

Tartar warfare, 77. 

Tatiina, Aunt, 13, 17, 29, 31, 62, 59, 

164, 176-178, 295, 368, 369. 
letters to, 69, 61, 66, 66, 73, 

76, 82, 84, 96, 96, 96, 108, 152, 163, 

168, 195, 198, 212, 285. 

peasants' opinion of, 358. 

Tchayk^vsky, N., 396, 397. 

Tch^maya, battle of the, 119. 

Tchitchenians, 66. 

Tchit^rin, B. N., 174. 

Teach, What must I ? 163. 236-238. 

How must I ? 238-239, 263-271. 

Telegraph, peasants and the, 176. 

Tolstoy's criticism of, 240-242. 

Temesh6f, I>otbet<shk», SO, 21. 

'Temple of Science,' the, 36. 
Tennyson, 135. 
'Tests'himself, 151, 154. 
Theodore Ivinitch (Kessel), 12, 17, 

Thought reading, 289, 290. 
Three Deaths, 174. 186, 357. 
Three HermiU, The, 386. 


{awrU), 174, 

Titles of nobility, Ru 
Todleben, 105, 118. 
Tolstoy, Alexandra 

176, 196, 286, 351. 

letter to, 176. 

Alexis, 4- 

Dmitry (eotmn), 4. 

Demetrius (Dmitry or Blitenka; 

brother), 20, 28, 40, 41, 42, 43, 147. 

relations with serfs, 42. 

Elias {grandfather), 3, 4, 6. 

Hyi, 65. 

(son), 310. 

Leo (son), 317. 

Marie (mother), 6, 9. 

Mary (daughter), 317. 

(Marie or Misha ; iiiter), 9, 

75, 82, 83, 84, 153, 173, 177, 285, 288, 


Nicholas, I (father), 4, 6, 6, 21, 28. 

(Nik61enka; brother), 18, 41, 

56, 60, 61. 191, 192, 193, 196, 197, 


letter to, 98. 

(sMi), 367, 360. 

Peter, 1, 2, 3. 

(«m), 344, 362. 

S. A. (vfife), 149, 289, 

296, 302-303, 317, 340, 

letters from, to S. A. Behrs, 


Sergins (Sergey or Sery6zha ; 

brother), 19, 20, 28, 41, 42, 196, 306. 

letters to, 48, 89, 90, 106, 

110, 148, 150, 162, 198. 
L. (am), 296, 303, 340, 366, 


Tatiina L. (daughter), 303, 320, 


family and servants, the, 21, 22, 


name, the, 1, 9. 

spelling of, 9. 

Tourglnef, 84, 133, 139-141, 149, 166, 

m, 189, 190, 193, 216, 221, 308, 338, 

339, 357, 388, 389-393, 428. 

challenged by Tolstoy, 166, 217. 

challenges Tolstoy, 219. 

comments on ABC Book, 347. 

Ajvna Karinina, 361. 

CottadcM, The, 296, 393. 

PolikoiUhka, 297. 

Setfottopol, 133. 

290, 292-